I am a former police and military psychologist. I have worked with police forces for a really long time. And you know what police officers hate? Okay, police officers hate a bunch of things (they’re awesome, really!), but what really bugs them is when they watch a crime drama or read a book which contains police procedural errors.
My god, the complaining…
Anyway, that brings me, in a roundabout way, to my point. Research.
I have heard people say that novels are not how-to manuals, that it doesn’t really matter if your grasp of procedural knowledge is off, because it’s just a story. We’re writers. We make stuff up. All of which is true. However. When you are a police officer, or a member of police support staff, or you have family who are police, you get really good at identifying holes in the procedure. When something happens in a novel that simply wouldn’t happen in real life, it leaps off the page to you. And suddenly, before you can stop yourself, it is all you can think about. The rest of the world that the author has worked so hard to create has vanished, and now you are back, sitting in your own living room, wailing “but it just doesn’t work like that!”
You see my point?
I believe in research. I believe in research like the research I am doing will teach me how to disarm a bomb in the last second before detonation. I research everything. I may have a problem. As my writing has evolved, I have learned that sometimes you don’t know what you need to know, so it can happen that I write first, then figure out the specifics later. Which is why God made the editing process. I research online, read voraciously, talk to people, the ones who know the things that I really need to know. I have found that people are incredibly generous with their time and their knowledge if you ask.
I have no doubt that I make mistakes, and that some things slip through my net, and, once I identify them, these errors will haunt me for the rest of my days! But the way I see it is this – I am trying to create a world, one which you as the reader can believe in. In order to do that, I need to make that world as believable as possible, so that I do not squander that time and attention that you have so generously handed over to me and to my book. I owe it to you to do my best, so that you don’t end up, back in your living room, shouting at me.