Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Joys and Perils of Research...

Inspired by Sally Quilford's advice following her success with My Weekly Pocket Novels, I've been reading a selection of them (by various authors) over the past year-as I have a couple of ideas that might be suitable.

I say MIGHT because once I start writing it could change tone completely and end up entirely unsuitable for the market I was originally aiming at! And it isn't neccesarily my fault, it's those characters who decide they're totally different to what I imagine them to be... :-)

(Okay, I know I'm supposed to be the one in charge of the words that I type, but...)

Research can be fun and I do enjoy it, in fact so much it's easy to forget that you have to stop at some point and start writing, plus remembering that you don't need to put all you've learnt into the story- just a little of it.

But then comes the issue of keeping hold of it, so you can refer back to it when you need to. I've tried a few things, some worked, some didn't.

Sadly I don't have room for a filing cabinet (if only...) so I've tried:  lever arch files, which unfortunately got badly bent out of shape, so I now have numerous thin clear plastic sleeves each holding either a picture, article or face, all looking for a new storage solution.

I often have a similar problem with box files- mainly because there's no shelf space for them.

Suprisingly the best solutions for me have been a big plastic stacker box that can be moved around, and those flat packed cardboard storage boxes that you get in stationery stores, which you fold and slot together to make a lidded box file, they can be fitted into odd gaps around the shelves.
They're also great for storing any paperwork you need to keep, like invoices, receipts and so on.

I have hardback notebooks for different novels or novella length stories. In these I'll put snippets of dialogue, descriptions, thoughts about my characters, page references from specific research  books, postcards, leaflets of relevent tourist attractions, even weather descriptions from the area the novel is set.
Each long story has it's own notebook.

Some pictures I'll have on my computer, but most will be on a disc and/or memory stick as well as printed out (somewhere).

Relevent books can be on a number of different shelves in the living room, or in that big lidded stacker box that keeps moving...

One problem that I do have- and I'm sure other fiction writers do too-is that avenues of research often trigger other ideas for related stories, or even completely new novels just when you're working on the first project and don't need the distraction.

I'm getting better at just writing the idea down and any associated mental images that come with it, then forgetting about it while I try to get on with the other project. I know I'm not going to forget the new idea because those jottings will be enough to ressurect the thoughts and images even a year later.

The human brain is amazing.

So I need to take my own advice and get on with the short story that has been giving me trouble recently, then I can come back to the pocket novel market research later (when the longer length stories- recently announced- start being published).

And I'll leave you with this thorny question: research first then write, or write and research as you go?


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Interesting post, Carol. I like to know a bit of background before tackling any writing involving research, but after that I prefer to check things out as I go along. Think I'm too impatient to get started!

Carolb said...

I think it's inevitable that you'll find you need to research some point as you write, even if you do a lot before you start.
Perhaps I'm too patient...:-)

Keith Havers said...

The more I read about how other writers do things , the more I realise that you have to do whatever works for you.

Carolb said...

Very true Keith. You try different methods and find what works for you personally.