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popmuze
08-25-2007, 07:15 PM
I'm under contract for a non-fiction project that requires lots of research, reading dozens and dozens of books from the library, downloading half the pages of the internet. While I like research, I'm itching to start creating the chapters I have in my head, especially the first.

How do you balance research and writing? Do you fill up ten notebooks with sources and quotes and information before you write word one? Or just dive in and correct your mistakes as you find them?

Jamesaritchie
08-25-2007, 07:54 PM
I'm under contract for a non-fiction project that requires lots of research, reading dozens and dozens of books from the library, downloading half the pages of the internet. While I like research, I'm itching to start creating the chapters I have in my head, especially the first.

How do you balance research and writing? Do you fill up ten notebooks with sources and quotes and information before you write word one? Or just dive in and correct your mistakes as you find them?

I read two thick, informative books on the subject, and then spend a day or so looking around the internet. Then I start writing, and make notes where I need more research, but I keep on writing.

Manat
08-25-2007, 08:00 PM
I studied some ancient and European history in University and I tend to stay in era's I'm somewhat familiar with. While I'm doing the rough draft I jsut plow on through, marking in yellow brackets (research this) as I go. Then I fill it in and correct as needed in later drafts. One thing I have learned is to keep citations so I'm prepared to justify anything the least bit controversial.

zahra
08-25-2007, 09:55 PM
I tend to do research until I can't bear it anymore and have to start writing, especially if, as often happens, the research inspires me or gives me new ideas. Then I research in tandem with the writing. But Gawd help you if you're down a certain path with your writing and subsequent research proves you wrong. Much gnashing of teeth ensues. I know of which I speak, bro.

CoriSCapnSkip
08-25-2007, 10:14 PM
In non-fiction, I don't know, in fiction I've learned to write everything in your head till you get stuck, research a bit till you get unstuck, go on that way till you have the whole story, then use research to fix any bits which don't agree with history.

Tish Davidson
08-26-2007, 02:53 AM
I tend to read enough to get a general idea of what will go in each chapter. Then I make a file for each chapter and start sorting out what material goes where. When I think I have enough (you kind of get the feel for this after a few projects) I start writing, leaving indications in the text for where I need more info, a specific statistic or a better example or anecdote, working through all the chapters and then going back and filling in and re-arranging after I get the feel for how the book is paced. I like my source material to be on paper so that I can shuffle it around. When I read a book, I make note cards with the general idea or quote and the book and page it came from. I love doing research and probably do more than I need to, but find it easier to winnow too much material than to stretch too little. For me the book flows better if I have most of the research in place first, and don't have to interrupt the first draft to go looking for more info. Nevertheless, if you are inspired to write a particular section, I say go ahead and do it and then just save it to slot into the appropriate place, because often inspiration produces the most compelling writing.

Danger Jane
08-26-2007, 05:27 AM
I do exactly as much research as I need to get started. Usually about two pages in a notebook, usually from an online database. Then I start writing and if I need more research, I get it as I go.

Karen Junker
08-26-2007, 05:39 AM
For my WIP, I spent a day at a Coast Guard station, during a gale, watching them work. It was awesome! I also got to tour a two million dollar yacht. It's funny, though. When you ask a yacht broker what would be the easiest way to blow it up, they get real quiet...

Novelhistorian
08-26-2007, 06:44 AM
When writing history, I research like crazy and make sure I keep voluminous, well-documented, well-indexed notes, so that I can provide sound references and trace the source if I find I need to consult it again. I don't write a thing until I think I have the general concept and organization of the book well in hand. Then I write an intro, not to show anyone, but to make sure my plan is coherent and persuasive. If it isn't, I realize where I have to research further or, conversely, change my design. If the intro works, I might take a crack at Chapter One--if I have all the information I need--but usually, I don't start writing in earnest until I'm done (or all but done) with the research.

popmuze
08-26-2007, 06:57 AM
This is great stuff here.

Tish Davidson
08-26-2007, 10:12 AM
I do exactly as much research as I need to get started. Usually about two pages in a notebook, usually from an online database. Then I start writing and if I need more research, I get it as I go.


Wow, I could never work that way. I get total writer's block if I don't have enough information and can get stuck for days. But whatever works for you is the way you should go.

ATP
08-26-2007, 01:11 PM
I'm under contract for a non-fiction project that requires lots of research, reading dozens and dozens of books from the library, downloading half the pages of the internet. While I like research, I'm itching to start creating the chapters I have in my head, especially the first.

How do you balance research and writing? Do you fill up ten notebooks with sources and quotes and information before you write word one? Or just dive in and correct your mistakes as you find them?

How extensive or specific is your brief eg. how much of a preliminary outline has been provided by the client, beyond the basics? Or none?

You're asking when does one know when to cease research and then begin writing? In many ways, as I have found in some other areas of work, the cut-off point almost determines itself.

But having said this, the point is underscored by a number of questions:
if this is your first such project or not, the extent of the brief, the type of book, your level of curosity and whether you are detail-oriented or not, if the book requires this or not, the audience/market and your assumptions about it, your deadline, the type of research you're undertaking (primary and/or secondary),and corresponding fact-checking, among others.

As I understand that you're greatly involved in music, for the exercise I'll assume that the book is either for a young general reader ('Generation Y'), or the music fan /follower market. The characteristics of your reader here will have a relationship with the above-mentioned points. These books generally don't require the sorts of research that a serious careerist biographer will undertake.

In relation to research procedure per se, speaking strictly for myself, I try to be as deep, broad and as methodical as I can be. I often have to undertake both primary and secondary research, and I will write more notes and download more articles than I will ever use with the piece. This is to obtain what I call 'mastery' of the material. With reference to my brief, I intuitively know pretty much when this point has been reached. As always, your writing should clearly reflect / illustrate this.

ATP
08-26-2007, 01:14 PM
I do exactly as much research as I need to get started. Usually about two pages in a notebook, usually from an online database. Then I start writing and if I need more research, I get it as I go.

I take it that you're referring to article writing, as opposed to the writing of lengthy non-fiction books, correct?

Sunnyside
08-27-2007, 05:15 PM
David McCullough once said:

"There's an awful temptation to just keep on researching. There comes a point where you just have to stop, and start writing. When I began, I thought that the way one should work was to do all the research and then write the book. In time I began to understand that it's when you start writing that you really find out what you don't know and need to know."

I found that to be dead-on advice. I did quite a bit of preliminary research and wrote a lot of notes, which I then used to write out a chapter outline. After I transcribed my notes and started writing, that was indeed when I started to see the holes in my research that I needed to cover up (i.e. filling out the backgrounds of some of my other "characters," getting background on a historical event that my main character sorta walked into in medias res, and so on).

reigningcatsndogs
08-27-2007, 06:21 PM
I research the basics for the story so I am comfortable with the material, but inevitably I end up researching some aspects as I work through the book. I always have more research and info than I use, but I prefer it that way. I'm the same way with my characters, though -- I write a complete biography for each character, including favorite movies, tv shows, holidays, etc., most of which also doesn't make it into the book, but makes the character so much more clear in my mind.

Jamesaritchie
08-27-2007, 07:21 PM
I take it that you're referring to article writing, as opposed to the writing of lengthy non-fiction books, correct?

This method works just as well for books as for articles.

Cathy C
08-27-2007, 07:35 PM
I tend to dive in and then drop a line and insert an asterisked comment when I need to add more information on something--like,

blahblahblah

*-find date when matches were created. Who patented?

blahblahblah