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How To Make Research Fun

One single idea can lead to a whole multitude of others. Whether you are reading about culture, languages, societal change, politics, architecture, or places, then you know what it means to research. You could research for hours and never run out of material to cover. As writers, or historians, we strive to know everything. We ask questions and receive answers. We debate and reconcile our differences. Since we haven't been around forever, it's hard to write what we don't know about the past.

History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.

Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)Pro Publio Sestio

In To Love An Irishman, I became fascinated with Ireland's landowners and tenant farmers. I wasn't satisfied with basic information. I needed to know how much profits the farmers made and how big the farms were. I wanted to know how everyone treated each other and what conditions were like on the field. I found the challenge enticing, but I knew it would be a hard endeavor. Most information was about the Irish Potato Famine, not many stories were told about the 1820s.

Soon I found texts on Google Books about Irish farming through the English perspective. I dug deep into the very pits of history and discovered more than I ever hoped for. Clothing, tools, and conditions were easier. It took only a few pictures and descriptions to find a perfect setting. Altmore, County Tyrone was small enough and barren enough to contain farming land. During this time period, the North was not yet controlled by Britain. Few people were speaking the native tongue (Gaelic) due to the Penal Laws implemented a few years in the past. They worked all day every day to pay high rents and unfair taxes while struggling to keep enough food to feed their families for months. This is the kind of research that broadens a person's perspective on life.

All words aside, we have it much better now a days. Without Google or Bing, our research would be done through travel and endless guesswork. It's really hard for me to describe a place without seeing it. Pictures are wonderful tools when I can't physically go to a location and study it.

Here are some tips for conducting research:
1) Take and keep any and all notes.
If you forget something, at least you know where to look to find the information again.
2) Don't spend all your writing time looking up information.
According to author, Jody Hedlund (Jody's Research Tips), you should "go deep but stay narrow". Although it's hard to follow a set path and research info about one particular topic, try not to allow any extraneous researching block your story's flow.
3) Have fun.
When it comes down to it, we love writing. Why not turn research into a game? How much information can you find in a half hour about your topic?

There is never a right or wrong way to conduct research. I get carried away sometimes in information, because I like to find out everything about every subject. I love history.

What are some ways you research? Have any tips to share?

As always, thank you for reading.

Happy writing!
Diva J.

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Hope Clark said...

Go deep and stay narrow is good advice. When I wrote my second novel, Tomato Stewed (in my publisher's hands at present), I had to refresh my memory on commercial tomato farming, and the history of migrant workers, which included slavery. I could have gone into all sorts of tangents, but I made myself stick to the subject matter. If it didn't fit into a designated tab in my notebook, I reluctantly let it go. Research can be highly addictive.

Hope Clark

Diva J. said...

Yes, I bet it was so hard not to go on a tangent. You never know if that extended research could lead you into a brand new story idea. It's happened to me many times. Thanks for your input, Hope.

-Diva J.

derekd said...

Heck, half the fun is all the research, learning tons of details that will never make it into the book. I guess cutting into writing time can be bad, but I view it as part of the process.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Fantastic post! I love being able to access Google Books and all those books written 100+ years ago. I've learned some neat stuff in them. My favorite kind of research is still hands on.

Pat McDermott said...

To me research is like an iceberg. Only the tip of it makes it into the story, yet I always feel more confident when I thoroughly understand what I'm writing about. And yes, research often leads to new story ideas, which is well worth the time investment. Great post, Diva.

Donna Goode said...

I agree with Pat. I've spent months researching my stories. The devil is in the detail, as they say, but in the case of writers, I suppose it could be said to be the other way about!

Diva J. said...

Derek, I find research as a part of my writing process. So that time is factored in automatically.

Thank you, Vonda, for your input. You like visual inspiration I take it? Like traveling? I wish I could do that.

I appreciate your kind words, Pat. I love new story ideas. They keep the motor running in your brain and that is what every writer needs.

Details are great, but we always have to assume we know more about what we write about then our readers. It keeps them guessing and wanting to read more of our work. I've spent years researching, Donna, so I know what you mean.

Thank you all for reading. Happy writing!
-Diva J.

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