Turntables, Trebuchets, and ‘Tis

When I started writing, nobody told me how much research I had to do.

Let me rephrase that: When I started writing, nobody told me just how much I didn’t know.

It’s not that research is a requirement to writing, but if you’ve ever attempted to write a character who specializes in a field you know nothing about, you start to realize that you’re going to have to research that field in order to write them well.

Looking back at your historically inaccurate version of the medieval period (complete with modern technology and faulty verb use!) can help you realize this as well.

Regardless of the genre you’re writing in, you’ve most likely done some sort of research. Even if you write about worlds not of this dimension, looking up “what is it like to live in a cold climate?” may help you write about the inhabitants of your land’s frozen tundra. You could be researching anything from “what color carpet goes best with a green couch?” to “tasteless poisons that can be put into food.” And if you’re anything like me, you’ve searched them both.

And have had some very awkward conversations with the people who have seen your search history.

But I digress.

Researching is just another part of writing- whether you use the internet, the library, or even the people around you and your own experiences! Generally speaking, it’s usually pretty fun as well! Which is strange, because I had never really considered researching as a “fun” thing to do.

While I can’t explain why looking up things for writing is more exciting than looking up things for a research paper on the same topic, I can give you some ideas on how to keep on track.

Assuming that you’re using the internet, that is.

Here’s my tips for you:

  1. Know what you are looking for. Are you looking for how heavy a certain weapon is? Are you wondering what it’s like to go through surgery? Know what you are looking for so that you won’t get overloaded with information that you don’t need.
  2. Stay. On. Track. Remember step one? Look for what you are looking for. Don’t get sidetracked by material that may not be relevant to you (ie. don’t open up the link to the website that shows you where the sun will be shining at a certain point during the day unless you KNOW you’ll use it). It astounds me when I think of all the time I’ve spent on sites that are not relevant to my search. Keep yourself on topic.
  3. Resist the urge to open too many tabs at once. It’s tempting to open up hundreds of tabs on the same topic so that you can have a “more complete picture”, but it can make research tiring. When I open up a tab, I expect myself to go through it- and I might not need to. Leave the search page open instead, and open two or three tabs. If you don’t find what you need in those sites, close them and open a few more.
  4. Take notes! Handwritten notes will help you remember the information more easily, and this makes step 3 a little easier. It also saves you from forgetting the information and having to look it up again. Write down what you need to know from those sites so that you can close those and open up new ones!
  5. Cite your sources. Just in case you ever need them again, make sure you write down where you got your information!

Good luck and happy researching!

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