Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tip for Tuesday

Tuesday's Writing Tip is:
Do your research.
I've been noodling a story for Summerside Press's Love Finds You In...series for awhile.
I knew I wanted the story set in Minnesota. I knew I wanted it to be historical. I had a really interesting (To me anyway) premise involving the English Colony of Martin County and the grasshopper plagues of the 1870's. (Remember the grasshoppers in On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder?)
And I had a terrific town to set the story in. Love Finds You in Welcome, Minnesota.
All I needed was a bit of on-site research to fine tune my plot. Yay, a visit to a county museum!
Last Friday, my SIL and Dear Daughter got up before the crack of dawn and drove with me westward in the fog, dark, and rain, to arrive in Fairmont, Minnesota by 8:30 am so as to be there when the county historical society museum opened.
I took a quick buzz through the museum, and while Linda and Heather set a more leisurly pace, I headed to the research library on the first floor to do some digging.
Imagine my total GARRRRRRPPPPGGGLLLEEE! when I learned that while the grasshoppers invaded Martin County in the 1870's, my lovely little town of Welcome wasn't formally established until 1890! ARGH! The plot and the setting didn't fit.
While I refrained from hyperventilating, my mind kicked into high gear. How could I solve the problem? The grasshopper plague could be located anywhere in southwest MN. But the English Colony was special to Martin County.
I found a single mention of a spot in Martin County called Snow Corner. Love Finds You In Snow Corner, Minnesota? Hmmm, maybe. But I could find no other reference to the location, nor did the research librarian or curator of the museum know where in Martin County that was. Scratch that.
Then I stumbled across a file called Lost Towns of Martin County.
There, in the pages, I found a map and a description of a town called North Star. All that remains of the town now is a cemetery and the stone foundation of the creamery. But it was a real town, in Martin County, with a cool, Minnesota name, existing at the time when I must have my story set.
It pays to do your research.
Question: Have you ever hit a research glitch? Have you ever been surprised by something in a book that you knew wasn't right?


  1. Interesting post! Every now and then I will hit a research glitch. I remember having to change a man's look from bearded to cleanshaven according to the fashions of his decade. More recently, I found myself vacillating over which year to choose for my novel's setting. One year can make a huge difference!

  2. North Star...Hmmmm...Sounds quite familiar ;) Good thing you found it all out before you started :D