Needing to Trust What You Know

trust what you know: English: BRITISH GENERAL EDMOND ALLENBY, WHO C...

There comes a point in researching a book where you have to trust what you know.

I’ve been reading, thinking, listening, experiencing, visiting, watching, facebooking, pinning and contemplating World War I for over a year now.

I finally started keeping track on Pinterest of the material I’d examined. Ninety titles today, but still counting.

My poor husband is so tired of watching World War I movies, that he actually brightened a moment when I brought home a famous WWII movie–until he saw it was Saving Private Ryan.

“When will this end?”


It has to. I’m 80% done writing the book.

My husband’s an engineer who mastered math and science in school. He never worried about tests because he knew the hard fact subject matter. Plug in the formula, write out the answer. Simple.

I come from the liberal arts side of campus where answers were seldom definitive and subject to interpretation no matter who wrote out the “facts.”

I never felt like I mastered subject matter. There always was another book to read, another opinion to seek, another side of the story.

That plays into my life when it’s time to write a novel. I’ve written before about knowing when to quit researching and just write, but there’s another side of the experience: knowing when to trust what you know.

Sure, I could go back and verify when a fact happened, what exact day General Allenby took Jerusalem, but if it’s not germane to my story (only peripherally), I don’t need to double check the date.

I’m writing a novel, I don’t need the exact information. I can trust what I know about the events and write them as beautifully as possible.

That’s what art is, right? An artist/novelist’s rendition of an event. It’s colored by what I know about the facts and how they need to be presented in my story.

The fact I’ve read a library full of books, watched innumerable movies, listened to all sorts of WWI songs on Youtube and bored everyone I know silly with the war, is immaterial.

Surely you the reader trust that I’ve done my homework? Click to Tweet

Do I need to prove anything more than I’ve written a story of interest? Click to Tweet

That’s what I’m banking on.  🙂

Because I trained as a journalist back in the dark ages, I’m a little more fervent about facts than, perhaps, others.

But do you, the reader care about the exact date of Allenby’s arrival in Jerusalem?

trust what you know:עברית: Allenby ceremony in Jerusalem 1917 טקס ...

עברית: Allenby ceremony in Jerusalem 1917 טקס כיבוש ירושלים על ידי אלנבי ב-11 בדצמבר 1917 בכניסה למגדל דוד (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then why should I?

Because, for me, it makes a difference.

December 9, 1917.

Do you trust what you know?

I didn’t.

I double checked.  🙂

And got the date right.

Sort of.

When do you trust yourself with any facts? Do you double check everything? Why?


Leave a comment


  1. I haven’t been bored with your posts, Michelle. They’ve been fascinating.

    I do tend to double-check everything. I owe it to the people about whose time I’m writing – if I put the wrong details into the story, who’s to say I haven’t altered the characters’ responses to suit my present-day perceptions? I try not to – but when one’s open to that criticism, it’s very much a qualitative judgement.

    I trust you, that you’ll do your homework. But I’ve been following your blog for awhile, and the attention to detail is obvious.

    But those I don’t know? I’d rather see a huge bibliography at the end of the book.

  2. Michelle

     /  March 8, 2014

    Thanks, Andrew.

    I think author websites can be stretched to answer questions and provide more information. That’s why I have a page for each of my books on the website along with additional information. (Just realizespd I should add Pinterest links as wel for photos).

    When I read a book that engages me, I always google the author and look for more information. Google, of course, facilitates that quest!

    Looking forward to reading your work someday!


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