As I’ve mentioned before, I am the sort of writer who is intimidated by a new project. Many of you love the thrill of the first draft; I find starting something new to be hugely difficult. When I am working on a project that requires research, things can be doubly challenging. Not only do I have a story I need to discover, I have a topic I need to master as well.
There are many ways to go about research. Here’s what works for me:
- Google “your topic” and “books” to see what pops up. There will probably be hundreds of titles to wade through. Get an idea of what’s out there.
- Visit your library (on-line and in person). Even if your local branch doesn’t have what you need, approach a research librarian. They’re there to help with interlibrary loans, and the like. I’ve always found librarians more than happy to help.
- While you’re at the library, ask for a tutorial on your library’s on-line database. (Many of you might already know all about this; I did not). I was able to access several dozen articles relative to the Gypsies of Spain. The best part is, now that I understand the procedure, I can access it from home.
- Once you’ve found a book or two, look in the bibliography or appendix to find information about reputable websites, organizations, and other articles or books you might read.
- Don’t be afraid to approach experts in your field of interest. I e-mailed a professor at Tulane with some questions when working on OVER IN THE WETLANDS and most recently contacted the Gypsy Lore Society. Don’t feel you have to share all your credentials (or lack thereof). Simply state you are planning a book on your particular topic and ask a few questions. I have had very positive responses in both instances.
- Once you’ve built a list of books you’d like to work through, don’t forget sites like Swaptree.com, where you can trade books. Look for titles at Half.com or buy used from Amazon. This is especially helpful when you’re looking for titles that are out of print.
- Google your topic again, now that you have learned a bit and have more of a direction as to where you’d like your research to head. This way you can weed through what’s not relevant or what’s not accurate more quickly than when you’re just starting out.
- Let the research itself be a pleasure. Let it take you where it will. This will mean following rabbit trails at times. Enjoy it. Trust your story will come.
CHRIST is WRITE. says
Love your blog! Thanks for stopping by 🙂
I think this would be the funnest part about writing a book. Funnest… is that a word? I’m thinking not.
Kate T says
Great ideas! I’m not always great about doing research though, I tend to jump in and save the details for the second draft despite the fact that this method hasn’t really worked for me. 🙂
Thanks for mentioning the library databases. At the library where I work, they are one of the things the public knows the least about. Basically they’ve replaced the old Reader’s Guides to Periodicals, but they’re better!
Irene Latham says
Just like you, I have found experts to be flattered to be asked and most helpful. And google is really excellent when that brilliant title pops into your head… good to know if someone else has already seized it. And if so, in what genre? So you can decide if you need to find another, BETTER title.
The key to getting over the first draft fear is ….JUMP! (says a girl hovering at the edge)
Rachael Levy says
Caroline, this advice couldn’t come at a better time. I need to pick up my novel after abandoning it for the holidays and am intimated by the loose story threads and many questions I need to answer. Thank you for providing some points of entry.
Bethany Mattingly says
Great advice. I’m going to bookmark it so, when the time comes again for research I’ll have a reminder of a great method! Thanks!
Kristi Faith says
Wonderful advice. :0) I dread anything called research. I might have to rename it…. 🙂
Once again, a post full of great info and advice!
Thanks for sharing this!
Jemi Fraser says
Very well laid out and organized! I love research as well. Always have 🙂
Catherine Denton says
Thanks for the tips on research.
Tabitha Bird says
Awesome tips. I don’t love research, but I suppose all writers must learn to use the tool at some point. We don’t know everything after all. LOL 🙂
Heidi Willis says
I absolutely loved researching for my book, but I think that was because I loved the subject so much.
And you are so right.. it’s incredible how willing people are to offer help and information. I was amazed by people’s generosity.
Great suggestions – especially about the library databases. It is such an underutilized resource.