Research is one of my absolute favorite parts of writing because it is the part that a lot of writers and students moan and groan about. ‘We hate it’ the students say, ‘It takes too long’, ‘it’s too tedious’ or my favorite, ‘I never need it’.
Whether you’re starting out to work on a ‘Research’ Project, a paper, or your next Novel, research is an integral part of the process. Not only does writing seem to come forth from us more eloquently if we struggle through the process, but it’s hard to write about something with command without owning it. And to own it, you need to have a firm grasp of it.
For my novel ‘Nock’ I know that I plan, and hope, to end up with four books in the series: “Nock”, “Mark”, “Draw”, “Loose”. For those of you that are familiar with those sets of terms, you’ll recognize right away that these titles are in relation to Archery. These are the steps in which you ready your bow to shoot. These titles have importance not only to the general ‘sport’ of the book but symbolically to what is waiting to happen.
I had to do quite a lot of research to get off of the first page. I came into this project knowing that I had a character, Diana, who was from a female dominated society who’s specialty was the long bow. I knew I needed women to be able to do this and I knew that she had to have a certain level of expertise and a reason to need them, but beyond that, I couldn’t have told you what the purpose of a fletching is or what the difference was between a recurve bow and the long bow. Did you know that Mark Stretton (UK) can pull back a bow with a max draw weight of 200lbs? For those out of the loop that’s extremely impressive!
Learning all that took quite a lot of time, effort, and highlighting. I use One Note from Microsoft quite a bit, because even though I know a lot now that I didn’t before, I know that I still need to learn a lot more. Even the traditional way of making these arrows was important for my stories.
As you can see I get really into it. It’s like a scavenger hunt of knowledge, a delicious golden apple waiting to be found, picked, and enjoyed. I let myself have fun with it, because as long as you keep focused you can research on the border of ‘too much’ as long as you’re not overdoing it but using all of your time for it. You can find out things that you think might not be used, that are just interesting, but then somehow along the way you need a little idea for your plot point to move along and BOOM you have a beautiful one right there! (This is especially true when creating a setting, world, or researching an already existing place! The colors that coordinate the street signs might not seem important, but if you were a character like Sherlock Holmes, I’d think twice about that!).
So I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that you should have fun with research. It can lead you into different directions, fun swizzles and turns and caves and nooks. You can change your topics or ideas, change your main character around! There are so many possibilities and that uncertainty, that excitement, is what makes it so much fun.
One more thing my students always tell me is that they aren’t interested in what they are writing. That’s the biggest mistake you can make as a writer. If what you’re writing is boring to you, then your readers are not going to enjoy it either. Work with your topic (research it!) and you might find that there is something in it that sparks a passion, or leads you in the right direction.
So for today I’m not going to give you an activity or prompt other than to tell you to hop on off to do some research, grab a notebook and a pen, then have fun!
What are you waiting for?