Writing Tip #7 – Research

How do you become an expert overnight?

Arguably, the most difficult part of writing is the research. In my opinion, it is also the most fun part. While the internet has made research much easier, it is also filled with false information. Finding reputable sources is essential, but difficult. If you’re doing the research, it most likely means that you aren’t knowledgeable (or knowledgeable enough) in the material you’re writing about. Here are some ways to maximize your writing time, and learn how to research effectively.

Write What You Know

Start with what you know. Are you writing about a track meet because you used to run track in high school? Great, it’s something you know. Including the details from your own life can add another dimension to your writing. Starting in places that you are knowledgeable helps to mask some of the areas that you don’t feel like you know as well.

Plus, starting with what you know will help you feel more confident when writing. Confidence is key. Incorporating things that boost your confidence in passages where you don’t feel as assured in your knowledge is important. Maybe your main character has been benched in a football game, and you honestly don’t understand how football works. But, you’ve been to football games. Does the main character smell the Nathan’s Hotdogs from the stands? Are they drinking a cup of Gatorade? You’ve experienced football in a way that maybe the main character never has. Write about it!

Find Reputable Sources

Wikipedia is not a source. Say it with me, Wikipedia is not a source. Just because it comes up first on your google search does not make it reputable. Here is my checklist for reputable sources:

  1. Scholarly articles. Scholarly articles are great because they hold a lot of information about a subject. They also contain sources, which not only gives you other reputable sources, but also gives you the ability to check and make sure the information is up-to-date.
  2. Websites from famous people. I’m not talking about Justin Bieber’s personal website. But, if you’re writing on ministry, Billy Graham’s personal website is perfect. Find people who are experts on the subject, and look at their website. Their website should include information, and resources for you to use.
  3. Magazines. I’m not talking about US Weekly or People. If you’re writing about the different views on the creation of the universe, Answers In Genesis is a reputable source for Christian Creation.
  4. Newspapers. If you’re writing on a non-fictional event that happened ten years ago, find newspapers to read. The New York Times, Washington Post, etc. are all reputable for current events. Or, if you’re writing on a fictional event that happens to be similar to something that has happened, read reactions to it from a newspaper. Remember to avoid bias by reading as many perspectives as you can.

Interview People

There is a reason you are writing this story; often, certain situations are inspired by stories you’ve heard. Is your character going through a divorce? If you have a friend who is willing to talk about it, this is so helpful to furthering your novel. Maybe, your main character works as a reporter. If you know a reporter, ask them to tell you about their job.

Surrounding yourself with people who support you is important. It may seem scary, but asking someone if you can interview them for research usually brings a smile to their face. I have talked to so many people about situations that come up in my novel, and it has made all the difference. For the longest time, I wanted to keep my novel a secret. But, the truth is, I didn’t get anything written until I had a support system to help me write.

Create Your Own Rules

Honestly, you can’t become an expert overnight. It takes years of studying something to know everything. So, when all else fails, realize that this is your novel. Research is important, but sometimes things need to happen a certain way to further the plot. People can always poke holes in anything, so it’s important to just keep writing.

Your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. Neither does the second, nor the third. The truth is, a writer doesn’t tell a story with an audience in mind. We tell the story because the scenarios in our minds won’t stop screaming until we do. Research is important, but don’t get so obsessed with a perfect novel that you never start writing. Just keep writing.

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