Donna Everhart

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)


4 thoughts on “First Sentence Friday – Chapter 4”

  1. I’m late, I’m late for a very important date, so here goes:

    Now that that is over, yes, a writer must know what they write about. The hard part is in the ignoring of it so a larger amount of readers can understand the concept. I doesn’t matter how well you know something, part of it is always wrong anyway. Sometimes it is a regional thing, sometimes it has to do with when something fits, and so on.

    I guess now that you have mentioned cotton growing, it is time to move on. Your stories, so far, are more about the humanity of the situation, not the hardware.

    Sorry I missed the start of this thing. I’ll go back and throw some crap in your comment section. I have to admit that I had slowed down on checking you site, because, yes, it is wonky sometimes and has, at times, taken a looong time to load. I’ll try harder, I promise.

    1. Well, howdy there, Craig. Been a while – hope you and Kathy are well.

      What you say is true. There is always going to be some a nugget that might not ring true for a reader, if it’s a regional thing. Take, for instance, THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET. I had a TON of people talk about the Appalachian dialect, and how it reminded them of their family, etc. But I also had a few who thought it was an editing error.

      Yes, this too is true –> “I guess now that you have mentioned cotton growing, it is time to move on. Your stories, so far, are more about the humanity of the situation, not the hardware.”

      But – the first sentences of each chapter are what they are, meaning there are likely more coming relative to “hardware” than “the humanity.” That’s how it always in in the beginning, it’s about the setup.

      The thing with this site – I have a ticket in to them (again) about cleaning up some of the front end pages (like the loading of the older books). I’m going to see if I can’t suggest something that’s more static, vs waiting for a book cover to appear.

      Good to hear from you!

  2. Yes to research. I’ve spent hours look at tobacco farms…for a small part of my book. Enjoyed this post.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top