How Authors Can Use Their Networks

rolodexRemember when networking was so popular there were networking groups everywhere you turned? I was living in Orange County, California, during those days and I belonged to networking organizations like Women In Management and breakfast clubs in which members gave each other job leads and I gave speeches on creativity to a dozen different kinds of groups in the OC business community. I got leads for small companies that needed someone to write brochures and manuals for them. I got connected with people I could help and who could help me. Thanks to Women In Management, I learned the value of networking.

But there’s one benefit to networking that I didn’t learn right away. We can turn to the people we meet and pick their brains. We can learn how things work. Yes, we can Google and read web sites, but I’d rather sit down and talk to someone and ask questions.

In the mid-90s, when I was writing my novel Quicksilver Moon, which is extremely realistic, except for the vampire, the story came to a point where I had to find out about certain police procedures. What does a police report look like? How does a cop really, truly write? What goes at the top of the report? What do the police do when they find twenty-two homeless women warehoused in a one-bedroom apartment? When they find vampire victims?

Who did I know who could answer those questions? Now I could easily phone the English department at one of the universities and get a list of 19th century books about vampires with some commentary. (Remember, this was before the days of Google and Wikipedia.) Aha—a few years earlier, I edited the memoir of a retired chief of police of the city of Anaheim. We’d become good friends, too. His name was Harold, and so was my father’s name, and the chief had a daughter named Barbara. He had been chief of police when Disneyland opened and had known Walt Disney. He’d also been part of the police protection of a band of acrobats from the Soviet Union. This was at the height of the cold war, and the police department was worried about the safety of the acrobats.

So I called the chief. He invited me to his house and told me to bring my manuscript. He read the chapters in question and dictated the police reports to me, with the proper numbering system and the verbs cops prefer to use. (They like “move” and they like the passive voice.) The chief even told me which social service agencies they’d call for those twenty-two women and what would happen to the women once they were treated. He wasn’t sure about vampires, but he did tell me what a homicide report would properly look like.

To this day, I cherish my network. Do I want to know something about astrology? I can ask a dozen friends. About rescuing stray cats? More friends. The diagnosis and treatment of cancer? More friends. Nearly anything I’m likely to put in a book or column, I can find someone to help me look smarter.

This is what I tell the authors whose books I edit. Don’t just guess about the subway system in New York City. Do some Google research, but also ask someone who’s actually been to New York. Do your research on plate tectonics, but also find someone who explain what happens in plain English so you can write about it in plain, accessible English. When you’re writing about farm machinery, ask a farmer what happens if you try to drive up a very steep hill.

We’re all more social via the Internet than we could be before it was built. We’re all building up our networks. As authors, let’s use our connections to make what we write more interesting and more accurate.

To learn more about the editing services Dr. Barbara Ardinger offers, please visit her web site at