Did I let that stop me? For about twenty years I told myself that I couldn't write because I didn't know anything useful.
Write what you know, but if you don't know. . .research, research, research. Don't let not knowing stand in your way. Do your homework, look it up, find out.
I enjoy researching so much that I have to be careful not to let it turn into an excuse for putting off the reason for the research--my writing.
Research Tip #1: Is there something you have always wanted to know more about? Make a list. What is it you really want to know? Narrow it down. I love history in general, but I wanted to know more about my great grandmother and her life as a nineteenth century midwife.
Research Tip #2: Write yourself a list of questions about your topic. Be specific. These questions become your research goals. If you want to write fiction, include 'what if'' questions.
Research Tip #3: Keep an assignment/research log. Write your assignments from your questions/goals list. Log the books or articles you read alongside your assignments to prevent duplication of efforts. Keep a copy of the author and publisher information so you can reference it later in footnotes and bibliographies.
Research Tip #4: Make a list of possible resources. Your local library and the Internet are obvious resources and they can lead to more resources. You can access almost any university library from the Internet. Are there any living experts you could interview? Check out local museums. If you can afford to travel take your camera. Document your pictures as soon as possible. If you can't afford to travel take a virtual tour on the Internet. Collect pictures, maps and satellite images.
Research Tip #5: Collecting pictures, maps and research generates a lot of clutter. Find a filing system that works best for you. You need to be able to relocate your research on any given subject to save yourself time and frustration. Think about what you need and how you'd like to organize all of your information. For every different book I start I want to be able to divide my research into categories; 19th century daily life, places, politics, the economy, cultural aspects, pictures and maps, etc. And it is important to me to be able to add to each category as I go along.
|Some authors prefer to fill up legal pads with notes from books or Internet sources. You can see I'm about to lose my first page, I couldn't turn the pages, I had to flip them over. Big deal? It was for me, and impossible to organize.|
Other authors choose to take notes in composition notebooks. The pages are more convenient, but I still could not segregate my research.
Still others like to take notes on index cards. This allows you to keep research categories separate and add information to each category as information becomes available. You can add index tabs to organize and file your research making it easier to retrieve. With this method I wasted a lot of time copying down information I had already printed.
I do like to use my index card app I put on my iPad. I use each card for plot structure outline and then fill in the gaps. There are programs like Scrivener, but I haven't made the time to trial yet. It works better with MACs than PCs. My son-in-law likes to use Ywriter5.
What finally worked for me is the binder method. I elaborate in my next post.
What method do you prefer?