Getting the facts right and/or those pesky hashtags


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Everyone is different of course and I’d love to hear how other writers do it. Mark their manuscripts where more facts need to be added or checked, I’m talking about. After the first draft of Tomaree I had over three hundred points to check. I can’t remember how I highlighted them. It might have been the first manuscript I began using hashtags but I know I had a long list that I wrote out and worked my way through over the next few drafts.

During the writing of Crossing Paths I had a lot of research assistants in the form of international bookcrossers. #site of traffic buildup in France after the tunnel from England? #popular make of car driven in Canada by an upwardly mobile young female executive? #the layout of Green Gables farm? One of my dear friends and bookcrosser Bill Staubi answered that one (and some other tricky ones) through emails and the forum at

Whilst writing one of the many later drafts of Tomaree I had a luncheon with some of the elderly female residents of Nelson Bay to check one or two pesky points. By this time we were firm friends and the conversation went something like this:

“So, one final thing. I’m just checking about letter boxes.” (The letters of my two young lovers were being passed in a letter box of Peggy’s neighbour, Sarah Linden, the main character in my current manuscript).

“Oh, darling, we didn’t have letter boxes in 1943.”

“What?” (Insert shocked expression on yours truly.) “What did you do about the mail?”

“We just picked it up from the post office, dear,” says another of my elderly ladies.

“So when did you all get letterboxes?”

(Insert animated conversation around the table. The consensus was 1946/1947 but definitely after the war.) I then had to rethink and rewrite how the letters would be passed/left between Peggy and Tom, her American GI boyfriend. I decided on a blue pot (from memory) that Sarah had around the side of her house.

With my last manuscript I Remember the White, a lot of my chasing the facts/hashtags has been chronicled in this blog and I seem to have been in tight control of all those pesky, time consuming points that needed to be checked. The main one that proved very frustrating and almost elusive, as Robert Watson will remember, was how to transport my heroine from Sydney to Salonika in late 1917. Submarines were making things very difficult so road and rail was involved.

With my current manuscript Paris Next Week in its first draft, I’m afraid I’ve been a bit blaze and as a consequence disarmed. This is a seemingly light novel told in the first person about two very wealthy girls, Sarah Montague and Louie Gilbraith who live in the exclusive suburbs of Elizabeth Bay and Darling Point in the 1920s. Lots of parties, beautiful clothes, stunning houses and the party to end all parties. Just the other day, getting near the final chapter or two of the novel, I thought I’d check the state of the hashtags. OMG! 214 and its only a 50,000 word manuscript! They must have snuck up on me. Just checked today. 228! They have been breeding. Well those pesky hashtags will have to wait until further drafts but more in my next blog.


13 thoughts on “Getting the facts right and/or those pesky hashtags

  1. I love your description of pesky #hastags. Don’t know where I picked up the idea, but I do the same thing! Good luck with your novel – and with removing those pesky tags one by one.


  2. I love how you found out about mailboxes! There are so many things we don’t realise about how things were in the past.
    I’ve never heard of using hashtags to highlight a research or other query before, Debbie. What a sensible idea. I am almost finished my novel and when I go back I know I have some things to check or change, so I will use a big # for them.
    Thanks for the idea. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another fascinating and very useful post, Debbie. I’ve been trying to do all my research first up, but have been itching to get writing. With the end (of the research) in sight, I think I’ll just hashtag as I go and start writing. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The hashtags are very useful in stopping you from being diverted by research. You know what make of car, a street name, aftershave in 1924. You can go off finding these things and then lose the conversation that was going on between your characters in your head. But I think the most useful thing is when you come to a passage and you know something is missing. It is so important to mark these as on another read you might not realise something is lacking. These are the ones I do #more details.


  4. Just read this blog, and well, I’m glad its not a novel I’m writing! Facts in a memoir are (usually) quite reliable, or at least easier to check!!


  5. Pingback: Researching v. Writing and/or maximising your writing time | debbierobson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.