5 Tips to Make Research Easy

1392922318379I have been researching and drafting my ebook on Taking Action (due out around Easter) over the last week. This is more of a reworking really as I have most of it drafted. Research is a very important part of that of that reworking process.

I seem to have been drafting fiction for so long that it seems like ages since I have seriously researched for any writing project. Knowing where to start with research can be a little overwhelming but research is important for all forms of writing.

 

1 – Start with a plan

It is easy for research to get away from you.

Starting with a research plan will focus the research process and ensure nothing is missed. This plan can change as the drafting occurs or even once you start researching.

Having a plan will ensure the right areas are researched, those areas you need to research, and will prevent you getting lost in the topic.

For example – for my current medieval style fantasy trilogy (a mouthful) I knew I would need to look at the way of life, castle and town layouts, types of services/trades that would have been in the grounds and many more. I also knew that I would need to look more closely at swordplay and warfare/battle strategy. I only did a little research in these areas before I started writing.

I note the areas I need to focus on while I draft to ensure I research appropriately or I could still be sitting in the library reading various books about the many aspects of medieval living, many of which I wouldn’t need.

 

2 – Set research time

Once you have a plan do the research.

Setting limits ensures no time wasted and as you have a plan you know exactly what you are looking for. This will also ensure that you make the time for the research you need to do. Different projects are going to need different amounts of research time.

As I said above, some may be done before you start to write, others as you write, or, as I prefer, between drafts. Do what works best for your writing process.

 

3 – Take notes/references

Make a note of where the information comes from.

This is important for non-fiction as you will need to reference it, or you may want to point your readers to the document.

It is also important for fiction writing as you may want to go back to some part of your research to read more on a topic or see where it came from in the first place. Without detailed notes of where you read something you won’t be able to do that.

Keep your research for one project together in a file or notebook. I tended to scribble bits all over the place and then have to keep track of the pieces. But if you have a notebook for each project (as I do now) then that can act as a writing journal as well as a place to keep track of your research.

 

4 – Reference your research appropriately

Do not copy from another author.

Ensure that direct quotes are accurate and appropriately attributed, as well as concepts and ideas from your reading.

This is important with non-fiction works, such as articles, books and even blogging. If you use someone else’s words you must attribute them to that author.

 

5 – Enjoy the process

If you are not enjoying the reading then your readers won’t either. And if you are not fully focused on what you are reading there is a risk you may misinterpret or misread something.

 

These tips are aimed at both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can’t know about everything you write about and some level of research will be needed. Even if it is for a name and its meaning to ensure you are not misrepresenting a character or the like. I had the recent issue when I read a little of book one to my writing group and the name I had made up for my twin gods turned out to be a Maori word for something else. Even if you think you have made it up it might not be…

Point #2 is the most important one for me, as it is the one I find most difficult. Once I start reading about something I’m enjoying it is very difficult to put the book down and get back to the writing. If I read on I may find other interesting facts that may influence my writing/story but then I might not. Only research what you need to. It will take time but it will be worthwhile.

 

Think about what you need to research for your current work and set a date for the library.

Finding writing time in the holiday season

adventAs our days begin to fill with concerts, school events, Christmas parties and social catch-ups it becomes harder and harder to maintain our writing time. And then there is all the organising for the festive season and present buying (for those of us who didn’t get in early).

Time with family and friends is important yet with this increase in social commitments you may notice it is harder to get the writing done that you would like. Last week I talked about goal setting and maintaining your momentum through to the end of the year, the festive season can make that difficult.

It is possible to enjoy the festive season and continue with your writing goals:

 

Make the time to write

With the shift in commitments it may be that the time you have available to write shifts as well. Available time might disappear or it may move to a different time of the day.

Re-evaluate your available time – when writing time could open up and how much. Can you create a little extra time?

 

Revisit and reset goals

Now that you have a clear idea of how much time you have available consider what you want to get done in that time.

  • What is most important on your goal list?
  • What would make the most impact?
  • What would give you the most joy?
  • What could you get finished?

Reprioritise your goals and focus on one goal first; you don’t have to give up everything.

 

Planning time in detail

It is not enough to have a list of what you want to achieve, link it with the time available by clearly planning out your writing sessions.

For each block of time write a plan for what you want to achieve. Make it clear and detailed so that when you sit down to work you know what you need to be doing. I find this helps greatly to use the time wisely. For example: a set hour during the lunch break – draft blog on Christmas impact on writing time. That would be enough to get me started. Or it may be: continue drafting scene with sisters for book 2.

Not everyone works in the same way, but I have found that with limited time the clearer my goals for a writing session the quicker I am able to settle into the writing flow and hence achieve more.

 

Guard your time

Let people know what you are doing, this includes family and friends.

If you reduce activities that readers are waiting on consider putting a notice out to your readers; for example, if you have a blog put a notice up that you are on leave or having a break and when you will be back. If you do this make sure you are ready for the return date, don’t leave your readers hanging.

 

I love this time of year, the hope and joy that Christmas brings. The family time and excuse to catch up with friends for a drink all in the name of Christmas cheer. But it can be busy, very busy and if, like me, you don’t want to put your writing life or goals on hold, there are options.

What do you do with your writing over the festive period and what tips do you have to keep the ink flowing?

Image courtesy of Anders Ruff Custom Designs, Flikr

Writing confidence

confidence

While completing the read through of my novel recently my confidence waned. The story still seemed to be lacking in some areas and I lacked confidence in my ability to save it, or if it was even worth saving.

In the hope that I’m not the terrible writer I think I might be I have been researching what other writers have said about improving writing confidence.

Below is a list of the key advice I found.

  1. Practice
  2. Rewrite (more practice)
  3. Share with others
  4. Use editors
  5. Read/about the writing processes of other writers
  6. Learn the craft (practice) and take courses
  7. Submit work – to publishers, competitions and magazines (also sharing)
  8. Kill off the inner critic (for a while); your inner voice and those around you
  9. Finish something

The first thing this list has helped me discover is that there are others out there suffering as I am.

And there is a lot of info out there (point 5). It is even easier now to read what other writers are doing and I’m amazed at the number of writers I’ve discovered, and still discovering. Many of them have a range of interesting and useful information and tools on their sites. I have found quite a few writers that have similar processes to me and I am always interested in how they handle different issues. I have also found quite a few with different processes from which I can learn a lot.

The first point about practice is the most important, I think. My aim is to write every day. It doesn’t always happen but if I’m not writing then I’m thinking about writing or ideas for writing. And blogging counts as a form of practice too.

I also advocate finding like-minded people, or writers at a similar stage, and sharing your writing with them. I’m a member of two different writing groups (one in person and one on Facebook) and I find both useful for testing my writing and learning.

In the possibility of self-publishing my work I have considered an editor, quite seriously. I’m not sure that this improves my confidence or is more like a safety net. At least if my story isn’t very good then the editor will pick up where the issues are.

One of the most important points (and I didn’t include it on the list above) is that the writing doesn’t have to be perfect immediately. You can’t start from the top, so to speak. This helps in some way by giving me the freedom to be bad and getting the story down first, then improve on it later.

Finishing something is great for the confidence levels. As of yesterday I have “finished” the current draft of my novel and that completion certainly helped boost my confidence. I was somewhat nervous as I pressed the send button to forward it to the beta reading group but it is comforting to know it is out in the world now (if only a small part of it).

Confidence seems to be a key element in any writing. How do you maintain your confidence or pick it up when it is slipping?

 

Image courtesy of Eric Chan, Flickr