Thursday, February 2, 2017

Finding Fault With A Manuscript

Finding Fault With A Manuscript

Today I have three words about
those who find fault with
our manuscripts.

Bring them on.


Can a non-fiction writer have too many
pre-readers? These are qualified, careful
guides who can catch fact errors we
have missed in our own checking.
Equally important,
they can flag issues of nuance,
balance or incompleteness.


You may want to begin assembling your
picky posse panel as you research the topic,
even before completing the story.

                                          credit: NASA, all rights reserved

My favorite resources include -

Public research universities - part A
Look for the website media/press page.
There may be a list of scientists, other
professors in many fields who volunteer
to be interviewed
about their specialty.

If you can't contact them directly, your
your first inquiry to the gatekeeper
who forwards the request might be
something like -

Hello. I would like to talk for 15 minutes
 with,or send 5 e-mail questions to,
Prof. Very Esteemed, about her
ground-breaking research on giant
marshmallow-eating moths.
This is to help me prepare a
non-fiction book of  32 pages,
for young readers,
ages 6 to 8 (grades two to three)
about the strange color patterns of
marshmallow-eating moths,
from Zanadu to Atlantis.

I am a children's literature specialist. 
I have listened to Canadian professor
Highly Prolific's podcast on this topic.
I have also visited the small
marshmallow-eating moth
museum in Candyland. I have read 11
articles about this unusual insect.  I have
taken many photographs of it for 3 years,
which is what initiated my interest in this topic.

Public research universities - part B
Public land grant universities with
agricultural departments
usually supervise field offices. I have found
that the mission of these agricultural
extension programs is to educate the public.

The specialists in our regional office
help with questions on topics related to
farming (today that can include farm-raised
clams!) gardening, forests, fields, bee-keeping,
some coastal environmental issues, such as the role
of sea oats in preventing dune erosion, and wetlands
issues for both fresh and saltwater areas.

Public teaching hospitals/museums/historic sites/
Start here with public education departments.
If there is none look for the press, media or
information office.

I can not say enough good about museum staff.
For example, the staff of the
Smithsonian-affiliated Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum
vetted a manuscript I wrote and also the
illustrations to accompany it, about a Seminole
Tribe of Florida leader. One of many ideas
they provided, was to change the look on an image
of an implement - a gigging stick to grab fish that
depicted a Tribe member carrying it.
To be more authentic. Done.

Public parks, refuges/ wilderness areas

Look online for the headquarters office of
your targeted natural resource. Although it's
helpful to ask questions of individuals on site
as you visit, there may also be federal, state,
or regional experts who cover wider
geographic areas within the program and
are likely not on site when/where you visit.

For example here in Florida, I know a biologist
who was the point person on all living
animal species for all the state parks. So he
was able to put into context, for example,
patterns about black bear, not only in North Florida,
but throughout the state.
Another worked as the statewide expert on all
trees and plants. While a random
ranger/staffer encountered
impromptu will be friendly, they can't be
expected to function as a specialist.

Non-profit, private, research sites or 
public education centers

Sites that aren't government-run, but are
non-profit & open to the public can be an
ideal resource. They are often looking for
publicity. And then you may want to return
to them, as a location to stage a book event
or market it in their shop.

                                               Family Annino/ Gulf Specimen Lab, Florida

Organizations, faith communities, professional
groups, societies, clubs

Resources here include Audubon Society, Sierra Club,
astronomy societies, historical societies, major religion
and faith groups, professional societies,
collectors' clubs, artists' organizations,
groups of hobbyists working at a high level of expertise,
and retiree groups in special areas of knowledge
such as math educators, railroad engineers & a
non-ending list of similar groups.
Look for your local chapter/unit and
if there are no appropriate helpers there,
find a regional, state or national contact.

Published authors/speakers on your topic

Look at the bibliography you are assembling
of your research. You may want to contact
authors of the books you are citing.
They may be willing to vet your manuscript
or at least, to answer questions. And their own
bibliography can be mined for sources to contact.

Research podcasts in your subject area.
There may be many online to consider in your
subject area. One of those speakers may suit
your needs.

Thank them, very much!

You may collect more experts for your Picky Posse
than you expect.
Keep current with all the ways to stay in contact
during the long haul, especially with 
the updated surface address of where they would like 
to receive a copy of your book
that is published in part, thanks to them.

. . . 
What is missing from this short-list?
Which resources are you using or have used?


  1. thanks, Jan! these are great points to consider when pulling together our list of experts.

  2. Glad you think so Sue. May we all have have a perfect picky posses!

  3. Such great resources and ideas for research, Jan. . .I'm bookmarking this one!

  4. Excellent ideas. Really fun when the expert is another country & you need to get the email request properly translated first. That's when those diverse friends come in so handy!

    1. What, what! This sounds like a separate article/blog post. Appreciations for your sharing this. So, how do you coax friends into providing complimentary translation... Appreciations for your comments.

  5. Yes! Fantastic list of suggested resources! And I would second the comment about having friends who can translate any number of items for you. Don't forget that taking those friends out to lunch or dinner, as a thank you for their translation efforts, is also a business expense! :D

    1. O.K. I see the answer about thanking friend-translators. So do you two (Julianne Hoffman + McMarshall) want to team up for a guest post on this challenging aspect to research.... Just a shot. And what's your next title coming up, J.H. while I have you here...

  6. Thank for sharing this info, Jan! Lots of great ideas here :).

    1. I've been thinking there are many more ideas, but this is a start.
      Good luck with your research + appreciations for your visit today.

  7. What a great post, Jan! Thanks for these very helpful ideas for finding experts.

    1. I consider you to be an expert, so thanks very much.

  8. Jan! Your GROG Blog post was featured in Five Tips to Becoming a Successful Writer--Institute of Children's Literature! Check it out:

    Nonfiction writers are only as successful as their facts, and their clarity. So how do you know if you really "got it?" This blog posts gives you help on forming your "picky posse" to review your manuscript and ensure that it's ready long before the first editor lays eyes on it.

    Editor Jan Fields


    1. Appreciations for this head's up, Garden Girl/Suzy.
      As you know I've been prancing at a pretty pace these days!
      II'm sorry it took me awhile to catch up with you here.

  9. Sorry to have missed this earlier, Jan. Great advice for finding those experts!

    1. No worries, Patty.
      With so many great resources to tap & so many fonts of advice, it's
      difficult to get to our writing work, reading work & the rest of the To Do list.
      I'm glad you could stop by now! Thanks for the kind words.

  10. Thank you Jan! Just what I was looking for!!

    1. Hi B.J.

      Why thank you!
      I'm so glad for your all your projects.
      And I know you will assemble a crackerjack resource/expertise team.