Monday, January 18, 2016

Getting the most out of your research

No matter which genre or subgenre you write for, you usually end up having to do research about something. If you write historical fiction, you spend a lot of time researching. If you do your job well, readers won't notice all of the research you have done, because you have woven it so naturally into your narrative. Still, you sometimes feel as if you want to scream from the rooftops: "Do you know how long I researched Victorian cookbooks just so I could write a dinner scene?"

This happened to me a few years ago. What started out as reading a nineteenth-century novel, becoming obsessed about a particular author, and drafting a story about her, eventually turned into two articles, helping with a documentary film, writing a book chapter for a scholarly press, and giving several presentations. After doing so much research, I decided to publish an article about my subject in a state history magazine. That first article opened so many doors, and I got so much more out of my research experience than I ever planned.

Research takes commitment and time--lots of time--and you want to make that time count. If you are writing historical fiction, of course your ultimate goal is to write a historically accurate novel, but you can also put all of your research time into other publication opportunities once you finish the novel. Once you have completed your manuscript, think about other ways you can get credit for your research. Perhaps you can publish an article in a history magazine or on a website. Maybe you can give a presentation to a local or national historical society or history group. Or, if you are so inclined, maybe you can even publish an academic article or book about your subject if you find something new and earth shattering! In other words, don't let all of your hard work go to waste. Get as much as you can out of those hours you spent searching books and digging through archives.

Susan Sierra is a historical and contemporary romance writer. She loves books and old letters, adores her dog and family, and has a deep and committed love affair with coffee. She spent time as an undergraduate studying (having fun) in Mexico, went on to work for a large regional magazine as a copy editor, and then decided that she hadn’t tortured herself enough in she went to graduate school. After many years, she walked away with a PhD and an unhealthy relationship with Charles Dickens. She hopes to complete her first full-length novel in 2015. FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER!

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