When you begin researching a project, do you ever feel like you're lost in a thick jungle and can't slice your way out? Me too. I actually love doing research, and have a habit of clicking from one subject to another, learning fun new facts. I have to be careful not to spend all my writing time doing research, because otherwise I'd never finish a project.
How can we avoid getting lost in the research jungle? Here are some tips that work for me:
- Research as much as we can before writing the first draft. Not only does this arm us with important facts, but this research will likely spark new ideas to deepen our plot and character.
- When writing the first draft, unless it's vital to the plot, do not slow down to do research. One trick is to type in (research) and follow up later. This prevents us from getting sidetracked during this phase and slowing down our momentum. Once the first draft is complete, we can find (research) and fill in the missing information.
- Check multiple sources. One place to start is Wikipedia, although this cannot be cited as a reputable source. But at the bottom of the Wikipedia page there's a list of links and books that will lead us in the right direction.
- Keep track of our sources. We can jot down book publisher information and page numbers on paper, and store them in a notebook. And we can create a new research file on our computer for each project and bookmark relevant websites.
- Ask an expert. Most experts are willing to spend time speaking about their specialty. I wrote and sold an article based on the Sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns. Although I had done extensive research, the article truly came to life once I spoke with an actual guard.
- Do a Google search for organizations that specialize in our subject. Often they'll have web sites with FAQ's sections, books on the subject, pertinent links on the sidebar, or discussion boards.
- Search for personal blogs. If our research involves a human condition, it's possible there's a personal blog out there on the subject. I once found an online diary which provided all kinds of fascinating insight.
- Enjoy! There's so much amazing information out there, and we're the lucky writers who get to gobble it all up.
Have you ever done research for a project? I'd love to hear what worked for you and what didn't.
Congratulations to our blogging buddy, Vicki Tremper, for winning our signed copy of Beauty Queens. Lisa Green, Leslie Rose, and I hope you love it!