Thursday, January 20, 2011


“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought”
~ Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

My shiny new project requires research. Much research. 

This is the first book I've written that hasn't come entirely from my own head. It's new territory for me. In fact, if I manage to pull off this story, I may have a full-fledged middle grade on my hands. That's a pretty big deal for a PB and chapter book writer. My current MS is a grand total of 17,200 words (ish)!

I'm excited. It's been a long time since I've been so excited about a project. But then, as people closest to me know, I've waited a long time for this shiny new idea! 

The challenge:  How to effectively organize my information and fully develop the ideas.

Do you do any research for your stories? 
How do you manage all the info?


Jessica Hill said...

My research techniques are nowhere near perfect, but this is what I do.

I have a separate notebook for each writing project. Before I start writing a new project, I always do a bit of preliminary research. This goes in the journal, usually just a couple of pages. (I also use the journal to jot down any notes while writing the first draft, and then later for my revision notes.)

Then, as I'm writing the first draft, I'll make comments in the Word doc saying "research this" or "fact check" or something along those lines to indicate I need to do a bit of research for that particular scene.

I do most of my research online, so I have folders in my favorites with all the websites I've visited for research for that project (again, each project has its own folder).

Eventually, I try to print out all of my research notes from the Internet and put them in a project binder, but many times, it just doesn't quite make it to that phase.

Good luck with your research!

Bethany Mattingly said...

:) I love shiny new ideas! The research I do excites me even more. I keep a expandable envelope that has tabs in it for each project. One of those tabs has research that is vital to the story, one has ideas that need more research before I write, and a third has research that is background. It keeps it all in one place. I've also bookmarked websites and put them all in a folder on my computer. :)

Jennie Englund said...

Wow -- Jessica has some great ideas!

You can do it, Shannon! You're a writing superhero!

Hey, how do you feel about homework in public school?

Stephanie McGee said...

Shiny new ideas are fun. I am an organization hound so I'm a little anal about organizing my ideas. I've blogged about it before on the blog and they've been some of my most-viewed posts. Yesterday and today I've been blogging about my research process for the book I'm revising.

Project binders and books. Wikipedia articles for consolidated lists of terms. And for their links to other sources that might be more credible.

That's it in short.

Juju at Tales of said...

True. I love a story that rings true with details.

The Golden Eagle said...

I've done research for stories I'm working on, although my current WIP is SF, so I don't have to worry about facts as much.

I usually look things up online and then I keep folders for different pieces of information--there's also OneNote on this computer which I use to organize even more and make lists of things that are important to the story.

Angela Felsted said...

I'm so glad you've found a project you're excited about.

Kelly H-Y said...

That's really exciting ... can't wait to hear more about it!

Heather said...

I had to do a lot of research for the novel I'm currently writing. I kept it all organized with a few different notebooks. The first held printouts of all the info I gathered that I felt might be relevant. The second held the info that I knew I wanted to use in the novel. I found that by keeping the first one I went back to it on occasion for elements to enrich the novel. Worked great!

Raquel Byrnes said...

I do a lot of research and put it all in a 3-ring binder. Sometimes I try to make sure I do research ahead of time...but new problems tend to crop up and I have to stop writing to figure things out. Good luck with your shiny new project...I love those!
Edge of Your Seat Romance

J. L. Jackson said...

I do a lot of research, I hand write all the information I need into journals. Then, I create a timeline, family tree, maps on seperate paper, keeping everything nice and neat.

I find that since I write everything by hand, I know where to find the information I need.

Tracy Loewer said...

I haven't had to do any major research yet - just a little fact checking here and there. There are some great suggestions here though. Good luck!

Old Kitty said...

Yay!!! Awww brilliant and good for you!! I'm so glad you are so passionate about your new project - it's all good!! yay for you!

Good luck with your research!! I hear post it notes and index cards are invaluable!!!

All the best with your wip!!!

Take care

Nicole Zoltack said...

I love doing research! I tend to get so wrapped up in it sometimes that I forget to write. I've found that I'll do a ton of research and then only use nuggets of it in the story, almost like using a little bit of spice when you cook. Personally, I write what I can and then when I come to something that I can't write on my own, then I do the research that is necessary.

Joann Swanson said...

How exciting and congrats on the new ms! I tend to do light research as I'm writing the ms. and then go back and do the heavy lifting after a first draft. Good luck with your wip!

Jemi Fraser said...

So exciting!!!

I keep all the sites I find in folders organized in my favourites. I also have a couple of Word files for research - one for each big topic and one for the bits and pieces types of information!

Mary Mary said...

Since I write historical fiction, I spend a lot of time in the research trenches. But I really enjoy the research part. Through it I discover scenes that I need or want to write and I'm always imagining my characters in what I'm researching.

I wrote a post concerning research over at The Divine Secrets of the Writing Sisterhood entitled "Don't Get Bogged Down: Keeping on Course When It Comes to Historical Research." You might find it helpful.

Here's the link:

Good luck!

Karen Lange said...

I keep file folders, on Word and the manila type too. Not great but it works for now. :)
Happy weekend,

Joanne Fritz said...

Good for you for putting in the effort, Shannon. I've been wanting to write a historical MG but the idea of all that research has been making me hesitate. Especially after hearing Laurie Halse Anderson say it takes her an extra year to write the historicals because of the research.

I did a TON of research just for one magazine story. Read several library books, photocopied key pages from them, and printed out websites and kept it all in a folder.

Remember to do some of your research from books in the library as well as from internet sources. I love Wikipedia, but as Stephanie McGee says, it may not be that credible (or accurate).

Catherine Denton said...

I love research. But I'm usually doing it just because I'm curious; not for a book. So I have no advice to give.

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