Whether I’m writing an article about Hawaiian cowboys or a book on the intricacies of a sentence, I keep my journalist hat tugged on tight. Part of why I’m a professional writer is that I love research (and learning new things). But another part is that I find the process of getting things right to be challenging—and satisfying. I’ve searched 19th-century newspapers to get the exact spelling of a San Francisco personage, called ad agencies to track down TV spots, and stared long and hard at videos to describe the footwork of a dance sequence (in my upcoming book on hula). All writers should be voracious fact-gatherers and astute observers. We need to separate fact from fiction, truths from half truths. When we weave credible research, colorful quotes, and deft descriptions into our tales, those stories become so much more compelling than vague washes or collections of clichés. Want to learn more about my approach to research and reporting? Here’s a piece on my methods that originally appeared in Writer’s Digest. And here's a post listing great screenplays you can read to learn what makes a piece of nonfiction, fiction, memoir or playwrighting crackle with life and seem truly credible.