Lost In Research (Or, Finding Your Way Back To The Story)

Sometimes we think that because we are writers that stories should just come to us. We imagine that all we need to do is sit in front of the computer (or with our pen and paper), and the words will just flow.

It happens. Sure, it happens. But it doesn’t happen as often as we think. It certainly doesn’t happen majority of the time.

We may only have a sliver of a sliver of a sliver of an idea. To find the story and give it life, we have to do more. Much more.

That’s right, fellow writers. We have to do research!

Researching our stories

Even fiction can be based on some amount of fact. Or, if the facts are completely made up for the story, they should make sense and have consistency.

Stories that are true-to-life, factual or nonfiction most definitely need to be researched.

Research often begins with a cursory Google search but it should extend beyond that.

We may need to hit up the local library or visit the archives at the university. It’s amazing what you can find there. It’s also easy to get lost in the research and never get back to writing.

Return from the archives

We may not know where our research is going to lead us, but we can have a strategy in place to keep it under control.

When researching:

  • Start with a list of questions that you need answered to even begin your story.
  • Always record and cite your sources in your notes.
  • Make it clear which ideas are yours and which come from your sources.
  • Set a research timeline or a schedule. Example: I’m going to research for a week before I start writing.
  • Make a date to get writing.
  • As you write, make notes on questions that arise that may require more research. Example: Did that idiom my character just said exist during that time period?

Readers will notice those small details about your story that don’t make sense. You may even need to go over your draft with a fine-toothed comb to find the research holes. But you also shouldn’t let research keep you from writing.

The great thing about drafts is that they can be rewritten.

Balancing research and writing

As a writer, we have to find balance. We need to get out those drafts (or they never get written). But we also need to research and edit and rewrite.

Every writer will have a different process. For example, some writers have to get their drafts done first. Then they go back to do research and rewriting. Other writers need to do some research before they even start their drafts.

Writing is both a talent and a skill. It takes practice to hone our writing skills, to become better writers. We just need to find what works for us.

Do you have a process? Draft or research first? Let me know!

*images via Pixabay