Write What You Will Research

The following is a report from my old blog.

There is an adage: Write what you know. I agree with that up to a point. After all, I’m writing a novel about expatriate women living in Nairobi. It’s not autobiographical, but it is based on what I know. However, if I only wrote about the things I know, then I’ll run out of stories to write.

I agree more with what many other writers advise: Write what you are willing to research. Are you willing to put in the work, dig deep, and research the hell out of something? Then, sure, go ahead. Write about it. This is the approach I’m taking on what I hope will be my second novel.

The story is set in Vienna, Austria (something I know). The protagonist is an American ex-pat (again, something I know). The theme has to do with human trafficking – a topic that is brand new to me. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the subject.

Committing to that research proved harder than I imagined. The subject is heartbreaking. I have found it emotionally wrenching to dive into the information. Still, I did it. I can’t write this story well or with due respect to the victims of human trafficking without doing this homework.

Thankfully, I could spread it out in batches, working on it during breaks from my current manuscript. Right now, I’m on such a break and I hope to have the research finished by the time I need to get back to the Nairobi-based manuscript. I realize there will be a need to go back and look up something or confirm details as I start on the Vienna story. But, that aside, I will have the bulk of the research complete soon.

I should note that there was an aspect of the research that was not as depressing. I did a lot of research into Austrian and Viennese history. That part has been fun. I’ve learned a lot about my current home, and it’s been useful not only for my story but also in my daily life. 

If you’re curious about the research, here are a few of my sources:

  • A Nervous Splendor: Vienna, 1888–1889, by Frederic Morton
  • Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery, by Siddarth Kara
  • Various reports by the OSCE Office of the Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings – in particular: Following the Money: Compendium of Resources and Step-by-step Guide to Financial Investigations Into Trafficking in Human Beings
  • The Palermo Protocols from the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
  • Information from The Liechtenstein Initiative for a Financial Sector Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking
  • I took the following certification course: Fighting Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking by The Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists

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