Ava Pennington

Author, Ava Pennington

Hi, all! Ava Pennington checking in from sunny Florida. They say the life of a writer is lonely. That’s true in some ways, but the advent of the Internet has connected us in ways we never imagined. It has also made research easier than ever. However, easier is not always better.

We’ve all heard the warnings about verifying the accuracy of our sources. Certain websites have more credibility than others. Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t make it true.

Still, there’s been a disturbing trend regarding research among authors – even multi-published authors. We’ve been blessed by our membership in various associations and networks, including CAN. We have access to social media sites that are a treasure trove of information. We can scroll through Pinterest boards and loops that remind us of alphabet soup: CAN, ACFW, RWA, TWV, and others.

In our haste to verify facts, we can fall prey to research by consensus. If enough people agree on Facebook, it must be right. If a photo was posted on a Pinterest board, it must be accurate. (Ever heard of Photoshop?) If we post our requests on the CAN (or another) Loop, we can trust the answers because, after all, they’re Christians.

But conventional wisdom is not always correct. The majority is not always right – even if that majority is comprised of members of Christian writers organizations. Sincerity does not guarantee accuracy.

If a friend is a credentialed expert, then great. But just because someone on a network loop has a brother-in-law who once interned in the industry you’re writing about doesn’t make that person the best choice for a source. Let’s not fall into the trap of following the path of least resistance simply because it’s convenient. We need to do our homework. There’s no substitute for proper research.

The best way to market our books is to begin by writing excellent books.  One wrong fact can jar the reader out of your novel or cast doubt on your expertise to write on a particular non-fiction topic.

While there’s nothing wrong with a little help from our friends, sometimes the best research source isn’t a personal friend or a fellow writer. Sometimes the best research source is an accredited association such as the AMA for medical questions or a Bar Association for legal questions…or the friendly reference librarian at your local public library.

Friends and experts – there’s a place for both.

What is your “go-to” source  when you need answers to research questions?

4 thoughts on “Friends and Experts

Richard Mabry

May 17, 2012 - 08 : 35 : 09

Ava, Oh, how right you are! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ground my teeth when I see a question on a writer’s loop with answers using the source “They say…” and “I understand.” If you want the answer to a legal question, you get advice from an expert. If you want the answer to a medical question, you get advice from an expert. If you want a guess that may or may not be right, ask someone who knows little more than you do. Thanks for the reminder.


Ava Pennington

May 17, 2012 - 11 : 46 : 36

Thank you, Richard!


Eliabeth Baker

May 17, 2012 - 16 : 55 : 58

Ava, thank you so much for this post. I have been embarrassed more than a few times by the blatant errors in books–including some by friends. We need reminding that good research is often difficult and the first answer you run across just may be wrong.


Ava Pennington

May 17, 2012 - 19 : 03 : 00

Thank you, Elizabeth! The easy way is not always the best way, is it?


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