Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This Really Helped Me

Let's consider a practical point today

namely, recording and documenting your research.

Silly Tess (maybe you're saying) I don't have or need any research for my particular story.


Consider this ... I recently received a request from my editor asking me to address both the teardrop trailer I reference in my novel as well as the home school laws for that particular state at that particular time.

, I had the teardrop information and I was able to point out that the span of the novel happens over summer break but offered to further research the home school laws if necessary.

Do you know how great it was to pop into my file and pull out all the link information on those teardrop trailers?

I was so very grateful for advice I had been given early on
to keep your research!!!

Even if you are just researching when the new Diet Coke was released or what year the Ipod nano hit the shelves (if your character is using one, know what was hot for that year)

Now, I'm not suggesting DOING additional research .
. but, we all know that we sometimes pop over and Google an issue we are writing about.

What I'm saying is that we should bookmark that link and put it in a file.

- when our novels get snapped up and we are going through the editorial revisions and we get an e mail saying something like, "
Did they even have Ipod Nano's in 2006?"

It will take us two seconds to pop into that file and pull out that information.

We look professional and they have what they need to move on.
win - win!

One more thought: if you are writing anything historical (which some say is 1980 or earlier, amazingly enough) you should include a basic bibliography if ever you get a full manuscript request. I was given that advice, followed it, and I think it helped me look like I knew what I was doing. Publishers can be leery about historical works because there is an element of liability or worry of being incorrect. Doing our homework and presenting that as part of our package removes that potential roadblock.

Questions: Do you ever Google or research items or issues for your work? Do you keep that information? How do you preserve it? If not, will you consider making this change in your work habits? Or, do you think it unnecessary? It's okay to dissent! Let's talk about it.


Susan Fields said...

Wow, Tess - I'm impressed you had that information right there where you needed it. I Google things all the time, and I only bookmark it if it's something I think I might need again. I'm going to start taking better notes! Thanks for some excellent advice.

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm so glad you mentioned this. I do keep my research but I didn't know how it would crop up later. Oh, bless you, Tess! You're the greatest!

Carolyn V. said...

What a great idea to save your research! I usually put it on my lappy, but I know even then, it can be lost. Thanks for the recommendation Tess! =)

Stephanie L. McGee said...

The brunt of my "research" for my latest WiP comes from *gasp* Wikipedia. I just needed to know general stuff about things. My other two go-to resources for this project (soon as I re-locate them I can continue to use them) have been "Astronomy for Dummies" and "Space Exploration for Dummies."

The last project was a fantasy so there wasn't much research. Just a lot of making stuff up.

My first novel entailed research in the form of travel guides. I think I used Fodor's the most. And those were just on-line.

Several of the Wikipedia articles I've used, I've printed out and are in my WiP binder. That's about it for cataloguing research. (Of course I'm much more thorough when doing a research paper for school. Not that I've done that in a long while.)

Susan R. Mills said...

I abhor research, but I have had to do it from time to time. I always considered it for my own benefit, but from now on, I will save it. Just in case, you know...

Amanda J. said...

Very interesting, thanks for the tips!! :D And really, historical is anything earlier than the 80s? That's SO not what I would have

Tina Laurel Lee said...

I google things all the time. Sometimes I just need a way to approach something. I rarely save it. I will have to start considering when I do this. I have to admit, I am terribly disorganized. And even if I did save things, most likely I'd never find it.

As usual, very helpful advice.

Piedmont Writer said...

When I was writing my historical romance I had a paper file this thick...I had to. I also had reference books and copied stuff off the internet. I even bought a book about boats and sailing. My mother was a librarian so I have those mad skills. I have to have a paper file because I'm still not computerly enough to figure out how to use all its functions. (I put something in google docs. Now I can't get it. Don't know how. )

Jen said...

Wow Tess I am impressed! Not surprised though you seem to know exactly what you need to be doing! I'm still in the learning process but I suppose every day for every writer is indeed a learning process isn't it!

These are great tips and yes I use google all the time!! Even if it's making sure that my alternate world is pretty accurate and not way off base! Or just making sure my character sounds like she is 17 when she's supposed to be 17!

lotusgirl said...

I don't write historical, but I do research some things. I haven't been keeping a file, but I think it's a great idea. I may need further instruction on how to set that up. I know how to bookmark things, but I've never made a file of them.

Lola Sharp said...

Oh I google and library my butt off. But I mostly hate it. I do enjoy the calling Medical Examiners, and Dr.'s and going to a gun range and shooting guns, all in the name of research. But looking up laws? BORING. My current WiP is forcing me to do lots of boring research...and you've inspired me to be more organized about saving my sources. Thanks! :o)


Amy Saia said...

Oh cripes. I'd better set up a file right now. Thank you so much Tess and high five for you being ready for that editor!!

Jayne said...

I love research! And take great pains in getting details as authentic as possible. I do my research in various ways:

Internet (bookmarking all sites, filing them in folders, backing up on CD)
Bought books
Ebay for paraphernalia (old maps, historical documents etc)
Living history (re-enactments)
Verbal (interviewing people where applicable)
Videos / DVDs
Archives - pathe news etc.

Hm... I think that is it. Might be some things I have missed out!

And thank you for the advice about including a bibliography if writing a historical novel. I didn't realise that, and yet it makes complete sense.

Tess said...

Susan: glad it was helpful, you just never know when you'll be asked for that info

LT: sounds like you're a step ahead if you're keeping it - good!

Carolyn V: even just copy/pasting it to a word document (the website or listing the book)

Stephanie: wow, I know about the "dummy" books but didn't know they had those .. that is so interesting!

Susan: yes! I do know .. it is for when your fantastic novel gets sold!! for when all of ours do :)

Amanda: isn't that a hoot? it differs by who you talk to .. but that's the line I've heard from a couple sources. 70's there were no cell phones (or even cordless phones), computers, etc ... how much our world has changed.

TinaLL: it's not hard, like I said, just make a word document called "research" and copy/paste the web links into that document and also list any books or mags you might use. easy peasy.

Piedmont: wow, that is impressive!! I have lost things to google docs,too. I go with the word doc method I tell Tina just above. It's much easier.

Jen: I am so glad to hear you say that .. I think people assume fantasy or sci fi don't require any research .. and, while it is far less, I think you are right to say some is still useful.

Lotusgirl: see my response to TinaLL above ... it's not hard and you may need it when you sell that great work of yours :)

Lola: hello! and, I agree .. some research can be fun but other research, well...not so much.

Jayne:wow-za! you've got it!

Linda Kage said...

Great advice. Thanks. I have kept some research info. But now I'll make sure to keep ALL of it. I had no idea the editors asked for proof.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I love research! I have letters, stuff from the BBC, books, articles I've printed off all on file for my mg hf...I'll be ready, if I ever get the ms done. :) Have a good one, Tess.

Mary Campbell said...

Good post and advice. I have a huge folder with all the information I've gathered for my book. I don't think most books would require as much info as mine does,but it's still a good thing to keep the info. I refer back to my research often to make sure I'm getting it right.

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

I have a big folder full of stuff too, for each novel. I also like to keep all the images and tidbits for the book I'm working on out in the open.

Right now, I'm looking at 1957 travel trailer, the top 100 hits of 1981, News Headlines for October of 1981 and a picture of an aardvark.

laurel said...

Great advice, Tess! I use an overseas location and did tons of research, including incidental things I could have fudged on, like train timetables and flights.

Right now, everything is scribbled in notebooks or just bookmarked in my web browser. I will definitely add to my to-do list "organize and compile research notes and sources."

BTW, that 1980s can be historic fic makes me giggle a little. Maybe I'll dig out that YA romantic comedy I wrote in 11th grade (circa 1985) and turn it into historic fic. Ha!

Oh, and Amy Cook, if you ever want to talk top 100 hits of 1981, I'm your gal. I was addicted to Casey Casem's radio show and can still name that tune to any pop song from 1980-86 in three bars.

Elana Johnson said...

I can see why this would be useful in the long run. I hate research, and don't do much of it. But I what I do have to do, I don't document. Something for me to think about for sure.

Thanks Tess!

Tess said...

Linda: yes, I didn't know that until someone told me and it does make sense .. so better safe than sorry, right?

Sharon: excellent!

Mary: is it historical? and, you will be glad you have that together

Amy: I have a war wall, too :)

Laurel: nothing fancy, but something to go back to if the question ever comes up

Elana: something to consider, yes. it doesn't have to be books and books .. just a little word doc w/ notes can help

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I learned this very thing taking an online writing course. And it has been very useful. Thanks for a great post.

Kelly H-Y said...

Fabulous advice!!!

Mary Aalgaard said...

Yes. If I look up something online, I often bookmark it. I have some paper files in a file box. Wow. That makes me sound organized, which I am usually NOT. Just look at my office space. Wait, that would be impossible since it's covered in papers and unpacked boxes.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I think I lost a lot of my stuff. But in the future, I'm saving it! Thanks for this tip!

Lady Glamis said...

I'm really bad at this. I have had everything bookmarked and organized, but that doesn't do any good if you have to reformat your computer and you lose all your online information. Yeah.

Thanks for the reminder, though! I need to create a file with links and downloaded info.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Wow, that is good advice. I never thought about being asked questions, but I would want the answer at my fingertips. I'm going to start a file asap.

Sarah said...

Such a great idea, Tess!

I see the logic of it, but alas and alack, I'm not sure how good I'd be at doing it consistently. (I say that with regret, not as a challenge.) I do keep links, because I usually need to look at it more than once. I'm haven't printed much, though.

Heidi Willis said...

Great point! I used a ton of medical information in my novel, and I bookmarked every single site I found that even remotely applied, including floor plans of hospitals and photos of Ronald McDonald houses.

I haven't had anyone question the info, but I feel much more confident in having it out there knowing I have medical journals, etc to back me up.

I hadn't thought about all that little stuff though. Wow. The file must get pretty big!

Tess said...

Terry: you are ahead of the game .. excellent!

Kelly: thanks :)

Mary: check you out...organized and don't even know it :D :D

Kristen: we just never know

Glam: ahh...I hope you didn't loose to much in the recent tragedy. I hope, I hope and I pray!

Tricia: oh, good. glad to hear this might be of help to some. I don't think all editors ask all the time, but I'm learning that some do and it really is nice to have that info handy.

Sarah: Your comment cracked me up. Alack and alas ... hehehehe

Heidi: a medical drama, eh? My hubby LOVES those.

Talli Roland said...

What a great piece of advice. This is something I really need to start doing - at least, a lot more than I currently am!

Paul Greci said...

Thanks, Tess. I have saved a bunch of documents for a 1980's story I'm working on but you are inspiring me to be more organized about how to save things, and to save the research for my more contemporary stories. Thanks!

Kristin said...

I email links and articles to myself all the time and move them over to an appropriately labeled folder. Research is one of my favorite forms of procrastination. Along with eating ice cream, lol.

Lisa and Laura said...

The last book we wrote required a good deal of research about Leukemia. I saved all of the information and links just in case--basically adding to a Word document. I think this is great advice and appreciate every opportunity we have to appear both intelligent and professional :)

Jen said...

I have an award for you!!

KrysteyBelle said...

Great advice. I keep a bookmarked folder for every story I've written. If you get the chance, check out my blog

Jackee said...

How I love reading your blog! This is great advice. I forget that just because it's fiction, doesn't mean the research is less important to document. Most of it ends up in a messy "Research" folder per book, not as organized as I'd like it to be.

And here I thought my days of documenting sources were done! Thanks, Tess! :o)

Kelly Bryson said...

That's smart, and it hadn't occurred to me. Thanks!