I’ve been editing a lot recently. (The ‘cut 50 words off every page so I don’t have to think about what sections I don’t need’ approach is working really well – down to 100,000. Done!) Usually editing is so painful I want to stick the pen in my only working eye so I don’t have to do it anymore, but it does occasionally throw up some interesting new perspectives on the book. Today I was going over a part of where a character thinks about Robbie Williams. Since a friend pointed out the egregious error where I had the character in 1995 think about Dawson’s Creek (it’s, like, a totally highbrow book) when in fact the show didn’t start until 1998, I thought, hang on, I better check Robbie hadn’t left by that point.
A quick search revealed that surprise, surprise, Robbie left Take That in July 1995. Part of my book is about teenage girls in July 1995. This is where I come up against the limits of internet research. Yes, he left in July, but when in July? A few weeks could make a big difference.
That’s when I realised a surprising number of things happened in 1995. The book’s set in Ireland, when there were the riots when solider Lee Clegg was freed, the Drumcree standoff, and all kinds of troubles and strife. I was only thirteen myself in 1995, so it’s hard to know exactly when things happened that I think I remember (cf the Dawson’s Creek mistake). I’ve been researching all kinds of details, like the exact date riots took place, or what temperature it got to during the heatwave, or exactly when Oasis released Roll With It (The Britpop chart battle was another 1995 event, although I think I’m actually a little early with it in the book).
I read this article recently criticising writers for making mistakes on flora and fauna. I’m not sure if it was tongue-in-cheek or stick-up-bum, but I don’t think it matters so much if the details aren’t strictly accurate. Reading a novel is like looking through someone else’s eyes for a time, and people don’t experience things in the same way, they don’t always notice or remember things accurately (leave that to Pedants’ Corner). So I hope I’ll be forgiven if I mistake the date of Robbie’s earth-shattering departure by a few weeks. I have however realised today that Robbie rejoined Take That (Back For Good?) in July 2010. As the other part of the book takes place then, it made me wonder if there is some secret Take That theme going on that I’m completely unaware of…