I 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.