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Streamlining Your Research

March 4th, 2016

corset-blogYou’ve probably heard the advice: write about what you know.  This is sensible as far as it goes but no-one – whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction – can produce informative, authoritative, realistic writing without doing research.

The good news is that most of us find researching one of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of the job.  In fact, the real danger is that you become so engrossed in your research that you keep going deeper and deeper rather than getting down to the writing.  You’ll also have to make sure that you don’t let yourself get side-tracked.  It’s a fact that most research projects take longer than you originally anticipated; so always make allowances for this.  It’s particularly important to avoid the trap if you have deadlines to meet.  Plus, you don’t want to spend so long on your research that you end up working for next-to-nothing.

When you’ve done your research, don’t try to cram every last nugget into your article or book.  In a novel, you are trying to take your readers on a journey and provide entertainment.  If your Victorian lovers are locked in a steamy embrace it may be useful for you to know what clothes they’ll be shedding, but your readers won’t really want a treatise on the finer points of corset design and manufacture!

If you are writing articles, it’s still your responsibility to make them easy to read as well as informative.  So don’t let your work get bogged down with unnecessary facts.  Learn to stand back from your article and assess it objectively to make sure that it has factual balance.

When you start planning your book or article it’s important to consider what research you will need to do.  Make a basic list and then develop each point further, making notes of what you need to know and where you might expect to find this information.  Organising yourself in this way can save you lots of time later because you can avoid making unnecessary trips to places or duplicating research.  Also, if you want to arrange interviews with people – face-to-face, by email or on the telephone – always try to do this well in advance.  You may have to wait longer than you originally planned.

Remember, one fact or source can often lead to another and this will provide you with a research chain that you can follow, link by link. So starting to research a large project like a non-fiction book or novel may seem daunting at first, but each project you undertake helps you to improve your skills and widen your knowledge of the sources that are available to you.

As you know, we’re currently running a Flash Fiction Competition but if you don’t like such short forms, but are still looking for a competition to enter,  then you might want to consider The Colm Toibin International Short Story Award. The prize fund is 1800 Euros and the closing date is 1st April. The theme is open but the story must be between 1800 and 2000 words in length. The entry fee is 10 Euros and full competition rules are on their website.

And talking of competition rules, my guest next week is Writers Bureau Tutor, Esther Newton. She’s currently running a couple of competitions that you might be interested in and she’ll be giving you some tips on making sure you don’t waste your entry fee.


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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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