Tuesday, September 19, 2017

5 Tips for Developing Research Techniques

This past week researching has been on my mind for a number of reasons. First of all I am working on a project dealing with a Native American leader that requires research, plus I was teaching a class on how writers can conduct research for their books. To add to the mix, our weekly publisher's chat was also on research and the best way to do it. That made me want to do my own research. Who better to ask than a group of published authors so I began asking around. 

What was the first thing I learned about research?  Nearly everyone starts with the internet because it is so simple and such an obvious place. The danger? False information or incomplete information. The historical editor who led our publisher's chat was quick to tell us we needed to double check anything we learned through internet research. I've blogged on conducting research in the past and warned about the dangers of accepting everything you might find on the internet. So how can you become a better researcher?

 So where else can we look?

1. Look for experts.  Now this is a place where internet research can help. By going through articles or researching websites you can find experts that you can either try to contact or look for their books on your subject. Look for experts who might be nearby who  you might be able to interview personally. 

2. Search out programs or lectures that might feature what you want to write about.  For things like mythology or history, that might mean a trip to a local museum. But don't simply visit it. Keep an eye out for experts at the location who might be able to either answer your questions or point you in the right direction. As one writer told me, "you have to really want to get to know a subject if you're writing about it," so always be on the look out for programs on subjects you might want to tackle in the future.
3.  Visit the location.  I can't stress this one enough.  My last blog I did on research was about my visit to Bent's Old Fort to see how the trappers and traders lived. There is no better way to learn about someone than to walk in their shoes and being inside the cramped quarters and seeing the actual items that were used back then made it easier for me to write about them. Last week I visited the burial place of Chipeta, a Ute leader who worked tirelessly for peace for her people even as their lands were taken away. Sitting in the quiet evening breeze, listening to the silence and enjoying the peace of the afternoon could really speak volumes that simply reading about her wouldn't have given me.

4. Libraries and museums. These are often forgotten treasures that can also take you back in history and give a better sense of life in the past. But don't forget science museums and planetariums where you can learn about the stars and space travel. And for certain, ask questions of the guides, or get information on experts you might be able to call.

5. Keep a list of everyone and everything you learn, and don't hesitate to get cards from people so you can call them later if you're unable to talk to them while you are at the museum.  Build a file and hold onto the information. You never know when you might want to go back to that person for more details for your story.

Mainly, you need to keep digging. Every subject has its experts, but don't simply call or try to interview someone without any sort of plan. Come up with a list of preliminary questions you can ask so you don't have to try to think of them on the spur of the moment. Plan in advance and then conduct your research in a professional manner. You are a professional. You're a writer!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

5 Tips to Getting Back to Writing

Okay, the summer is over if you count Labor Day as the Official End of The Vacation Season. It is now time to go back to the keyboard or pick up the writing tools and start working again. I am certain a huge sigh follows reading that line. I sighed heavily after writing it. Since Labor Day was always the holiday that signaled the start of the school season back when I was still in school, that is how I still view it. That means all those excuses for not writing on my manuscript must end. Time to edit, to write, to WORK!
 But how can we do that?  How can we get started again? I actually used to enjoy the beginning of the school year and the new school supplies and new clothes. I also liked the idea that I would be taking classes I hadn’t taken before and that I would be learning new things.

Let’s look at a few ideas for putting our now much older brain cells back into the writing harness.

1. Go back to your last manuscript. Open up that manuscript you were working on –whether that was a month ago or two months ago.  Start reading it, start editing it, but get busy with it. But don’t start from where you left off. Start from the very beginning. Re-read your work and see if it holds up from the beginning.


          2. Re-introduce yourself to your characters. See if you are introducing them properly. You probably know them a little better after spending that time with them earlier. Look over whether you really got some of who they are into those opening paragraphs.

         3. Check over your setting. Are you pulling readers into the setting at the beginning and making them feel the location, the time period or the time of year? Look for places you can edit or make notes on items you need to look up. 

      4. Focus on the Inciting Incident. Are you getting the start of the story in quickly enough or are you spending too many pages setting everything up? Those days of long involved openings no longer work. Readers want to get into the meat of the story as quickly as possible.

       5. Make necessary edits but don't bog down. While you want to fix the big problems, don’t get so engrossed with making it perfect that you forget to move on. The story needs to continue to move and you need to continue to write it and get the rest of the story out of your head.  

Mainly you want to start working with fresh ideas, a fresh outlook and fresh determination to finish. Set up some new writing rules for the rest of the year or set them up as though you were starting the next year of school. Try some new writing trick or lesson that you heard about over the summer. Maybe it’s time to try using a timer and attempting writing sprints. Or try using a new writing program. It’s a new year, why not try something new?


The long days of winter are ahead and there will be plenty of days where it makes sense not to go out, but to stay inside and WRITE!

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