Wickeds, there are all types of research for a book. When do you do most of your research? Before you start, to help you find your way into the story? After you’re done, to add details? Or while you’re writing?
Jessie: I love all the questions you have been posing this month, Julie! I start all my books by poking around researching and seeing what captures my fancy. I follow and learn and make notes for as long as I need until the story starts forming in my mind. I generally end up making notations in my manuscript of things to go back and check or learn more about as the writing gets underway but the bulk of it happens for me in the noodling up stage.
Edith: This month I’m researching a new historical era for a new project. Like Jessie, I do some of it up front, but I’m also eager to start writing, so I make lots of notes to myself as I go, for things I’ll need to check later. I’ll jump out and look something up mid-draft if I think it will change the direction of the story. But a lot of it I do after the first draft is complete.
Barb: I’ve mentioned I like to read narrative non-fiction as a part of my research. If possible, I like to do that before I begin. Often it will spark ideas for plot or character. I don’t interview anyone or send out emails to experts with questions until between the first and second draft. I like to know precisely what I want to ask and not waste their time. The biggest challenge for me is visiting locations and venues. So much of what I write about is seasonal and I often can’t visit exactly when I wish, so it’s a matter of either going early when I may not know what I’m looking for or going later and inserting information in a late draft of the manuscript.
Sherry: Barb, I’m getting ready to start writing the third Chloe Jackson book and I have a lot of non-fiction books about the panhandle of Florida — I think I’ll borrow your method and see what happens. At this point the plot is only one line. I also usually do the research after the first draft. In A Time to Swill , I had questions about the Coast Guard and military wills. I was fortunate to have Bill Randall (author Shari Randall’s husband) answer questions about the Coast Guard. Friend and retired Navy JAG Vida Antolin-Jenkins gave me great information about military wills.
Julie: It’s so interesting that we all research before and after our first draft, but not during. I like the narrative non-fiction idea for reading. I did that a lot when I wrote the Clock Shop series. Does anyone know a narrative non-fiction book about cemeteries? Let me know! While I’m writing I use a bracket method. I make myself notes of things to check or research as notes in brackets, like [check on how long a person can hold their breath while juggling knives], that I check after I’m done with the draft.
Readers, if you’re reading a book that makes you want to learn more, do you explore while reading or after? Writer friends, when do you do your research?