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Quick question: does anyone know of a good book for learning how sailing ships worked in the 1700 and 1800s? Because I am about to write a fantasy novel based largely around sailing ships (pirates, ya know?) and I have recently realized that I don’t know anything about sailing ships.

Research for a book is important. As a plantser (someone who falls in the middle of the planner/pantser dilemma) I both outline and wing it when starting a new project. I tend to create a nice loose framework, but refrain from filling in too many details because it tends to change so much. This can be beneficial because if I need my male lead to have two younger brothers all of a sudden, I can do that without contradicting my outline (and I’m the kind of person who has a hard time changing details like that once they’re down on paper). It can also make things difficult because it means I start with a blank slate.

For me, plots need a little detail to get it started, a direction and a theme and such. Characters need a few general details so they can then grow and expand in my mind and on the page as the book is written. I’m now pretty sure that research falls in the first category.

It is possible to go back and fix things, but it’s better to write from a strong position of knowledge than not. The knowledge can lead to conclusions and ideas and interesting plot points that might otherwise slide past unnoticed. It also allows for more confident writing (fewer stand-ins that lead to taking ten minutes just to write “the thingee was tied around the other thingee”).

So now I’m kind of in a rush to find a book of ye olden sailing terms and how those boat things worked. I can fill in a few meager details from what I’ve got, and from what I can dig up on the internet, but there’s nothing that beats a book and a lot of intensive reading. Does anyone else have a little last minute research that needs doing? (Or know of a really good, easy to read book of nautical terminology?)

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