Friday, November 9, 2007

Research: Like Salt To Mashed Potatoes, Part 8

Do I really want to write about this subject?

For my last post on the subject of RESEARCH I want us to consider what NOT to research. Some authors are tempted to write what’s popular, or what seems to be selling regardless of whether we read that genre or subject matter, like it, or even know anything about it. That’s a mistake on more than one level. What’s popular changes faster than our bed sheets, so by the time we get it written, revised, polished, and ready to send out to publishers or agents, it isn’t popular any more. Might even be very UN-popular. (I can’t tell you how many authors said they scrapped story lines involving New York City after 9/11.)

Second, if we don’t enjoy writing about a subject, our passion won’t come through, and readers will be nodding off by the end of chapter one. The advice to “write what you know” is given by seasoned authors for a reason. Besides that, if we don’t know the subject OR aren’t sure we’ll enjoy writing about it, we certainly won’t want to research it. Mathematics bores me silly, so no way would I attempt to write a book about a math teacher, CPA, or rocket scientist. I DO enjoy watching cop shows on television, researching investigative procedures on the Internet or in print, or taking classes, like a Basic Death Investigation (not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, but fascinating nonetheless.)

For my second series, my research is fairly easy. My hubby is restoring a ’57 Chevy and we belong to an antique car club so I can get all the answers I need for that one. And I enjoy researching it.

Ask yourself: what are my interests? Canoeing, knitting, sword fighting, playing jacks, hang gliding? What do I most like to read about? What subject would I most likely take if I were going to college or beginning a new career?

We shouldn’t shoot ourselves in the writing hand by choosing a subject we aren’t the least bit interested in. But remember, there is really no excuse for sloppy writing or researching these days with so much information available from so many different sources. All we have to do is dig.

SUGGESTION: Make a list of at least five subjects you aren’t expert on but would enjoy learning more about. And writing about. Make a list of five subjects that bore you silly, that you wouldn’t consider reading about much less writing about. Print the lists out and put them in your research folder. Choose one of the items you enjoyed researching during this class and get to work on it. Short story, article, full novel, whatever you feel up to. If you need more inspiration and you found pictures while researching, post them on your storyboard. And have fun.

What’s a story board? It’s a great place to tack pictures of the areas we’re writing about, research articles that inspired us, and index cards with chapter numbers and a sentence or two about each chapter, to let us see where we are in the story line and how it flows. Story boards can be cork bulletin boards, or those neat fold-up poster boards that salesmen carry around, or in my case, an antique metal board that came from the office of a molasses company. I use magnets and clips to keep inspiration nearby.

Okey dokey, that's the last of my postings on research. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments area. Or contact me privately. Hope you enjoyed it. For me research is a lot of fun. And sometimes you get to shoot at things or blow them up.

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