First Sentence Friday – Chapter 4

When I was doing the event hosted by Main Street Books the other day, a reader told me how one small bit of incorrect information in a story she’d read some time ago had really bothered her. (not in one of my books – phew!) It was a simple mistake, and one that could’ve been easily rectified with a quick Google search. I get how this could be worrisome because I’m a reader too, and I’ve had the same thing happen. Authors must be meticulous because nothing throws a reader out of a book quicker than an error no matter how small.  This is why research for a new book can be fun, but daunting at times as well. As a writer, I realize there are little slips here and there, but I try my best to make sure they don’t happen.

In THE FORGIVING KIND, a good chunk of my research centered around cotton farming since my main character, Sonny, and her family live on a three hundred acre cotton farm. On Facebook some time ago, I posted that I now knew how many bales there were in each acre, (considering planting techniques, weather factors, etc) how much each bale might sell for, the weight of the bale, and how the quality of the cotton is established. I stated at the time I didn’t know why I needed to know it, but, I knew it.

I poured over many a website about cotton farming, wanting to understand how crops were planted, when they were planted, what were common types of cotton, what weren’t, the equipment used, terms, like “string out” and what it meant, and on and on. Cotton farming wasn’t the only thing I researched, but I’d say it was certainly the most time consuming.

When I was writing this story, I needed to increase the stakes for Sonny and her family with regard to their personal loss. I did this by including small, yet significant decisions that impacted their ability to “fend off ruin,” as the flap copy explains. One small, yet important choice Sonny’s Daddy made ended up being something I’d researched, an uncommon variety of cotton grown mostly in the southwest. You’ll understand why this made such a difference to them, and their ability to grow a crop that year once you read the story.


Chapter 4


Mama kept the list Daddy made which included a new cotton seed called Pima, a special variety he’d wanted to try, and which Mr. Slater had ordered.


Pima cotton, fibers being pulled from boll (photo courtesy Jim Wilson, The New York Times)


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