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  1. #1
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    Documenting sources in the internet era. . .need info for my novel's epilogue. . .

    I've written a few novels (as yet unpublished) that I plan to add epilogues to, adding more information for the readers about the real-life places, events, people and/or animals that the story characters were based on. For example, my newest novel is about an orca whale who was captured, spent a number of years in captivity under the care of man, and then is released back to her native waters. I was wanting to add an epilogue about the history of orcas in captivity, as well as some facts about wild orcas.

    My concern is whether or not to document EVERY source I used in writing this epilogue. When I was in college (before use of the internet became mainstream), we were taught to meticulously document ALL our sources, and the words "don't plaigarize" were firmly pounded into our heads. Well, that was one thing in an era when we got most of our info from books and magazines, but now that I've gotten most of the information I've used in my epilogue from the internet, often from message boards, do I still need to worry about documentation? Should I just simply list my sources? Or should I just skip the epilogue altogether? I thought readers might be interested in learning more about the animals and events that the story is based on, but I also don't want to get myself in trouble, either. Any advice?



  2. #2
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    Any substantive source should be cited, as possible. For a private e-mail, you could just list "e-mail exchange with [name] on [date]." For a Web site, per Chicago Manual of Style 14.245 (newest, 16th edition), "include as much of the following as can be determined: the title or a description of the page, the author of the content (if any), the owner or sponsor of the site, and a URL. Also include a publication date or date of revision or modification; if no such date can be determined, include an access date." And access date is important, because the Net is so volatile that the information may no longer be at that URL very long after publication of your novel.

    It's interesting that you do this. I've done something similiar with my next novel and did so with a short story book a decade ago. By adding a related nonfiction epilogue, I found that venues for book talks/signings increased.

    Good luck with the novel.

    Gary Kessler
    www.editsbooks.com
    www.publishingquestions.com

  3. #3
    Senior Member Cheryl Morton's Avatar
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    Jody,

    I think the nonfiction epilogue is a great idea. My concern with what you wrote is that a lot of your information comes from message boards. As a rule, I'm highly skeptical of any information that comes from a message board, and even if the information is accurate I would never list it as a source. I would request source information or do some research on official sites. Find authoritative sources on the subject and list them.

    Best of luck!

    Cheryl
    Justin Bieber: "I was sent by God to sing."
    Corey Taylor: "I didn't send you!"

  4. #4
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    I should have noted what Cheryl did as well. If you want to use information from message boards, try to track down a better source saying the same thing.

  5. #5
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    What you were taught about documenting your sources is exactly right if you're writing a paper for school, or for a peer-reviewed journal. It's not as important when you're writing fiction. That being said, I think it would be a fine thing if you had either a list of acknowledgements after your epilogue or a formal bibliography if more appropriate. It's partly so that you can give credit where it's due and partially so that interested readers can know where to go for more information.

  6. #6
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    What she described isn't fiction. It would be a nonfiction epilogue--unless, of course, she was going to make up things about these real-life places, events, and people. That would be fun too.

  7. #7
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    Like they said, things such as message boards can be iffy, as well as many other sites on the internet. I went to college at the time that the internet was the big source to use for papers, we were taught to stick to scholarly articles and stay away from things such as wikipedia. As Gary pointed down, if you see something online, or on a message board, try finding a better source stating the same thing. If worse comes to worse, buckle down, go to the library and do it the good old fashion way.

  8. #8
    Belinda T.
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    we got most of our info from books and magazines, but now that I've gotten most of the information I've used in my epilogue from the internet, often from message boards, do I still need to worry about documentation? Should I just simply list my sources? Or should I just skip the epilogue altogether? I thought readers might be interested in learning more about the animals and events that the story is based on, but I also don't want to get myself in trouble, either. Any advice?

    Any information you cite in your writings, fiction or nonfiction, can be reflected as reliable information after you research the articles for accuracy. It wouldn't hurt to also get written permission authorizing your use of the info for insertion in your writings. In other words, if you were writing a fictitious story about whales and Gary Kessler's fishing expeditions, be sure you're telling a heluva true story.

    http://easybib.com/
    Last edited by Belinda T.; 07-05-2011 at 07:23 AM.

  9. #9
    Belinda T.
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    For example, my newest novel is about an orca whale who was captured, spent a number of years in captivity under the care of man, and then is released back to her native waters. I was wanting to add an epilogue about the history of orcas in captivity, as well as some facts about wild orcas.

    Be careful with oral history. Retelling it should be as accurate as possible. www.oralhistory.org is a good place to start.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Frank Baron's Avatar
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    If you sell your ms to a commercial publisher, their editorial and legal people will tell you if you need better documentation. If you self-publish it's quite likely nobody will ever note questionable sources or their lack.

    Good luck.

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