9) Don’t stick to stereotypes
When researching, as in writing, stereotypes can either be helpful or dangerous. It’s important before you start your search that you don’t have preconceived ideas about what you expect to find (unless you already have some knowledge of the area). For example, while I was learning about Victorian England I could have assumed the population fell into two groups: the upper classes in their stately homes (as seen in many TV programmes) or the extremely poor working classes (such as those depicted by Charles Dickens). Had I stuck with these stereotypes I would have missed the large group of people who became the middle classes. There is a lot less written about this group and they are often ignored in TV, films and books, and yet it was this group who were central to my story. As a result, my research needed to be deeper and broader to understand their lives and motivations.
10) You may need to pay
Depending on what you’re looking for, not everything will be free. There are many subscription web-sites and it will be for you to decide if signing up will be money well spent. For me, researching my family history has meant Ancestry.co.uk is invaluable. It gives me access to a wealth of information that may not otherwise be available, as well as allowing me to continue to work at my desk. The alternatives would have been numerous car or train journeys to Birmingham or London with the associated costs and the extra time involved. For me, this makes the subscription good value for money, but only you can decide if it will suit you.
11) Choose a way of working that suits you
Doing research can either be a chore or it can be enlightening. Depending on how you view it will determine the way you work.
The way my brain works means I don’t work well with unstructured ideas or narrative. I like to write the story in chronological order, which means I often have to stop to find pieces of information before I can move on. Working this way gives me the sense that I am writing a complete piece that will require less work when I go back to edit it.
It does have a major downside, however, in that if you are feeling inspired and words are flowing, breaking off to research a point can disrupt the flow of writing. In this scenario it would be wise to get your thoughts down before going back to refine them.
Researching can however, have a benefit. If you are struggling for inspiration and have been looking at a flashing cursor for too long, switching to research mode can help provide inspiration. If you search for something relevant to what you want to write and click into the results and follow links that look interesting, more often than not, you will read something that will give you the spark you need to get you back to writing.
12) Don’t give up
Sometimes doing research is easy; there’s a lot of information on the topic of interest and it all basically says the same thing. Sometimes, however, there are subjects that don’t appeared to be covered at all. These can be the most frustrating and time-consuming searches because you read site after site only to realise that none contain an answer to your question. I had a particular problem when I was researching the use of stychnine in medicine. It is widely known as a poison, but I knew that it had been prescribed to my great-great grandmother for depression. It took a number of attempts, and many of the strategies described above, to find the information I wanted but with perseverance and some lateral thinking I got there in the end.
Do you have any more tips you can share? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
If you want to know more about The Ambition & Destiny Trilogy, visit my website here.