Blog Challenge · Writing

Day 10 – Research and Tools

First, some gratuitous self-promotion. LOOK TO YOUR RIGHT! See that link there? Where it says RISING is Coming Soon? It’s a sign-up for for publication information on Rising: Book One of the Adept Cycle. SignUpNow! 😀 Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog post….

I’m going to put this out there right up front: Most writing tools are not fit for consumption by anyone with squirreling tendencies.

Today’s Author Blog Challenge deals with research and organization in terms of writing and the process.

I’ve tried all sorts of organization methods:

  • OneNote files
  • Organized directory structures full of text files containing as little as two words of inspiration
  • Index cards in boxes
  • Journals
  • Free writing software
  • Serial story writing sites
  • Pirating expensive Temporarily trying expensive writing software
  • Sticky notes in books
  • Voice recorders
  • Telling other people my notes in hopes that they’ll remember what I said
  • Crazy ideas scrawled on the back of bar napkins

Now, let’s examine, in detail, the pros and cons of each method stated above.

Hey, did you know that OneNote can do calculus?

You can keep reading… I’m not really going to belabor that list and all the possible tangents therein.

But… the very idea of in-depth examination of minutia is why a lot of writer tools don’t work for me. I squirrel. I find other tidbits of information. They all become important. I derail, and never get back to… you know… writing.

When I was in college, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. Hell, I still don’t. I have a BS (I love that acronym) in Computer Science. I also have an English Writing minor. I have nearly enough credits to also have gotten a minor in math, and I took way more physics that was really necessary — at least according to my college counselor. (Man did he have his work cut out for him… he was a bit of a mad scientist… it probably helped.)

research all the thingsThe point is twofold…

1) When I take interest in something, I will run down the rabbit hole as far as a possible, trying to eek out every nut, bolt and cranny. I want to know ALL THE THINGS about ALL THE THINGS!

2) When I start researching ALL THE THINGS, I end up squirreling. Big time. I’ll be on Bing, searching for the proper service weapon for an FBI field agent… and somehow, four hour later, I’ll be on YouTube learning how to communicate telepathically with horses. So I end up researching ALL THE THINGS about ALL THE TANGENTS!

How does that happen?

And serious points to the person who makes the Internet connection between FBI service weapons and horse telepathy in the shortest number of hops. 😉

When I was a kid, my mother berated me for being the queen of the half-done project. I would start to write a story, and it would require research. So I’d go to the library (I was born before Al Gore invented the Internet). While there, I’d find a book on chivalry… or the occult… or… belly button lint. I’d start reading about whatever. I’d bring home a stack of books with every intention to make notes and finish my story. But I’d end up drawing a detailed sketch of a knight on a horse instead. Then I’d focus on the best method to clean out belly button lint.

I’d even make notes about these ideas and findings. The note cards, papers or napkins would then get shoved into the bottom of a drawer. I’d find them a year later and I’d be like, dafuq? And they’d get thrown out.

As computers came into my life and all of these organization systems came to be, I thought, “Great! NOW I’ll find something that will adequately organize my thoughts and research!”

For years, I remained disappointed in every tool I tried.

Little-known-factIt took a great number of years and a whole lot of false starts to hone in on the fact that all of these systems and tools and tricks only work if your brain is wired to use them in the manner intended. Shortly after this startling revelation, I came to terms with the fact that my brain holds on to the most useless of information… well, useless according to the rest of the world (seriously, they called me Cliff Clavin in high school debate… I finally gave in, my last speech of Senior year, and included the phrase “It’s a little known fact…” in the text).

So how, then, do I organize my research?

I don’t.

At least not in any singular fashion.

I don’t own this mug. I find this to be a completely unacceptable reality.

I have OneNote documents, Word files, and sticky notes. I have an index card box, several journals and my fair share of bar napkins. My husband gets to hear all my crazy ideas, and he reminds me of some of them when I forget (he’s a saint, I swear).

I search the Internet, pour through books, and mentally file away the most useless of facts. I make weak outlines and timelines for my stories. I bookmark web pages with useful information (my browser “favorites” list is a blog post in and of itself). My web search history would leave the police department scratching their heads if ever they had to investigate me.

And when I sit down to write (in Word… always)…. my characters tip-toe through the minefield of information in my brain, pull out what they need, and they incorporate it into their own story in whatever manner suits them best. And sometimes… they just make shit up, and I go with it.

Today’s shout-out goes to Christina over at Palace of Twelve Pillars. I can relate to her struggle with outlining. My characters tend to throw tantrums if I try to dictate their own story to them too much. I think of it much like a micro-manager vs. a manager who inspires. I try to be that second kind of manager… giving them a little direction, but then letting them detail the story in their own, unique way.

4 thoughts on “Day 10 – Research and Tools

  1. Thanks Shanan for the visit and the shout out. I didn’t even get into my research habits. Like you if I start I can’t stop and the initial writing of the story gets bogged down in all the details. I am learning to do enough research to make the story plausible then write the story and punch in all the details in the rewrite.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can definitely feel you on this one! I get really worried about the tiny details, so I spend hours researching. Then when it comes to the writing, I have to remember that less details are better. My audience doesn’t want to know everything I found on the matter. Especially in fiction. haha

    Liked by 1 person

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