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popmuze
08-28-2007, 07:05 PM
Is that pretty soon you start to think everything about this subject has already been written....brilliantly.

How do you avoid just becoming a cut and paste factory for all the great stories and quotes you're discovering in your research? And if you do discover something you absolutely want to include, how much do you have to change it in order to avoid putting footnotes on every paragraph?

And how do you come up with a new slant that none of these other six hundred writers have thought of in their 900 page books?

narnia
08-28-2007, 07:21 PM
Are you writing fiction or non-fiction?

popmuze
08-28-2007, 07:30 PM
Non.

Fiction I could just make up any damn thing I want. With non-fiction, every expert in the country is standing ready to pounce on your mistakes.

Novelhistorian
08-28-2007, 07:38 PM
The nonfiction research, and I'm speaking of history, that stands out for me usually falls into one of two categories (and, in a few stellar cases, both). Both involve the use of little-known or underused primary sources. When I read the same old chestnuts recycled because the authors involved have all cited one another, that doesn't do anything for me. (Sometimes those old chestnuts just happen to be apocryphal, too, even though they sound good, but they continue to be quoted because nobody's gone back to the original source or questioned its plausibility.) So if someone has taken the time and effort to dig where no one else has dug, which results in new stories or old ones told properly, that gets my attention.

The second way an author gets my attention is to use those new stories to reinterpret an old problem. A recent example was The Savage Peace, by Ann Hagedorn, an amazing account of the U.S. in 1919-20. I thought I knew a lot about that era, having contemplated writing a book like that myself, but, on reading hers, I realized I didn't know nothin'. What she wrote took my breath away.

I don't know if this answers your question, or if it's an answer that does you much good. But I'd say, find sources no one else has tapped; and, better yet, use them to say something new.

ATP
08-28-2007, 07:46 PM
Is that pretty soon you start to think everything about this subject has already been written....brilliantly.

How do you avoid just becoming a cut and paste factory for all the great stories and quotes you're discovering in your research? And if you do discover something you absolutely want to include, how much do you have to change it in order to avoid putting footnotes on every paragraph?

And how do you come up with a new slant that none of these other six hundred writers have thought of in their 900 page books?

i) How do you avoid just becoming a cut and paste factory for all the great stories and quotes you're discovering in your research?

The entire process lends itself to the metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece of data is only as 'good' or 'bad' in relation to the piece of data that comes after it. You will go through an initial sort/ classifying of your data. Then, with reference to your brief, you will perform a culling of your data.Sort into central or 'core' data - these could be titled either Chapter 1, 2 etc or how you see fit - then to the more 'peripheral'. Do not throw anything out/away. You must retain every piece of data in one of the folders you've assigned.

Then, as you proceed with further research, you might very well do additional rearrangement of your classification. Always, always, always refer to your brief - this is your guide.

ii) And if you do discover something you absolutely want to include, how much do you have to change it in order to avoid putting footnotes on every paragraph?

Styles vary - but from what I know, you would likely place references at the end of each chapter.

iii) And how do you come up with a new slant that none of these other six hundred writers have thought of in their 900 page books?

This is the nature of research (and I am sorry to say, in use of the original meaning of the word, scholar-ship). To use more commercial language, the idea of 'market research' and 'product differentiation' might apply here.

narnia
08-28-2007, 07:53 PM
I concur with Novelhistorian, who beat me to the punch but probably put it better than I would have!

It's more legwork, but once you've gathered up those little-known or underused primary sources (assuming you're successful), they might contain some golden nugget! One thing I've done quite often in the past, which may not apply in your case depending on what form your research is in, is to go back to the original source and read around the quoted material. I frequently discover that the author cherry-picked information and the before and after text gives me a bigger picture and/or alternate views. Another side benefit for me was the sources I found in the original source, kind of like 'reverse engineering' or discovering the original quote behind a rumor :tongue, if that makes sense. It starts out as the dog ate my homework but after it's been repeated numerous times the dog was taking my classes and doing my homework for me!

Hope that helps... :o

Doug Johnson
08-28-2007, 08:49 PM
Maybe you could get some ideas from the section of your proposal about how your book is different from existing books.;)

popmuze
08-28-2007, 09:02 PM
Believe it or not, I have found all of the above very inspiring. I think it's helping me to conquer the "just beginning the research" blues.

Meanwhile, what made my day was being able to buy a used copy of an important source book that was going for $92 on Amazon, under its original title for $2. The more expensive book was updated in 1996, but the 1991 edition has everything I'm looking for.

Now that I'm up $90, I should put it all on a long shot in the second race at Aqueduct --only if Mike Venezia is riding.