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Keeping Your Research In Context

May 24th, 2019

Ann Williams was the winner of our student-only Book Review Competition. Below are her tips on how writers can make the most of their research without ‘swamping’ the text with what they’ve uncovered.


“Writers, whether in fiction or non-fiction, need to research. The internet has made this so much easier, cutting out trips to the reference library, museums or record offices. Facts can be checked from the comfort of your own home, whenever convenient. However, this easy access to material offers pitfalls of its own.

A simple check for a date, the direction of travel from A to B or the colour of a flower can lead to a mass of information, all of which may be new and fascinating to the writer. It is natural to want to share new-found knowledge but if it is unnecessary for the theme of the article or the flow of the story it needs to be drastically distilled to what is relevant.

Another pitfall is the temptation to follow all the leads thrown up in the search which may leave the writer well-informed on a range of related topics but does nothing for the work in progress. The extra information may be useful in building up background knowledge, but the reader doesn’t want to be swamped with masses of detail. I recently read a police procedural with whole paragraphs devoted to explaining technical terms. It interrupted the pace and drama.  The book I chose for my competition review, Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton, showed great knowledge and understanding of the period and circumstances of her story but the details emerged naturally from the dialogue and action of the story.

Making notes of key details, spellings and quotes and putting aside the research for a while before writing, may be one way of avoiding regurgitating chunks of information. It also makes it easier to ensure you use your own words rather than those of the original text.

Does that mean all the other material uncovered is wasted? Not at all. It may be the basis of another article or story.”


Back in March I published a guest post by Sian Townsend, writing as Maritta Jayne and she also kindly sent me a copy of her novel, Vengeance Is Mine. Her central character is a short story-writing amateur sleuth called Camila Edge, and an extra dimension is added because Camila is confined to a wheelchair. She’s an engaging character and I hope we’ll see much more of her in subsequent books.

I’m always happy to mention competitions and anthologies so before I finish today, here’s an absolutely bonkers one. Guts Publishing is seeking short stories (2000 to 6000 words) on the subject of penises (yes, you did read that right). They say the stories can be fiction or non-fiction, humorous, erotic or serious – the closing date is 5th July. So… I’ll leave that one with you!



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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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