It doesn’t take a super sleuth to figure out that writing isn’t as hard as it is supposed to be. Thought about what to write, however, is an entirely different story. Two factors come into play when choosing the type of writing you will do on a regular basis: what can you do and what do you want to accomplish?
Are you good at writing compelling fictional character stories, or are you the type of person who finds non-fiction writing almost like second nature? Do you want to write to educate, entertain or earn money?
Whichever path you choose to follow, there are certainly steps involved in writing; the first step, the backbone of your work, is research. Now, while it is true that research tends to play a more critical role in writing non-fiction than in writing fiction, it is still important for fiction writers to understand the value of research, especially when it comes to reference search to base the elements of your story.
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This is the part where you collect as much information as possible. When doing preliminary research, you don’t need to spend too much lots of time reading and analyzing studies, articles, books and even videos. All you have to do is find them and compile them for later.
Step 1: Identify the mystery
The first part of the research is, of course, figuring out exactly what you want to write about. You will want to consider a topic that you can talk about for hours, or even days, preferably, something you are passionate about. Make sure it is a subject that you are familiar with, otherwise you will be writing articles full of lint, and your readers will certainly notice.
The best way to identify which topic might work well with you is to note at least 10 of your interests. Then for each interest, write as many sub-topics as possible which are strongly related to their parent topic.
Once you are done, choose the topic that contains the most subtopics – that’s your golden subject.
Step 2: pick up the magnifying glass
Now that you know what you want to write about, it’s time to start the actual research!
Researching doesn’t just mean gathering facts. It also means determining exactly how to write your piece to make it both unique and precious. For example, if you are interested in writing about money, don’t just stick with money as a general topic; go further, find a sub-category, or a microniche, so that your book can be laser focused.
If the main niche is money, then its microniches (or sub-niches) are personal finance, investments, among others. Why not write about personal finance or investing?
Step 3: Gather the Clues
The next part of the research is devoted to collect a lot of related material. It is essential that you do proper research, avoid inaccuracies, and be sure to nail down all those little details that can add up and possibly ruin a good book or article.
Data collection can range from facts and information about a topic of your choice to published works on topics that are similar or tangentially related to yours. Note, however, that this step is similar to preparing a stew. You just throw it all in the jar without do a difficult reading or analysis at the moment.
All you have to do is browse your resources and find potential references; read the headlines and subtitles, maybe even the intro and the conclusion, and just throw them into your makeshift database if the material seems to fit.
To decide what type of material “would be suitable”, consult books similar to the topic you want to write about. Go through their table of contents to get a general idea of what the book highlighted.
To take notes and identify what all of these books have in common regarding the content, and also determine what makes each of these books unique. If it’s a lot of work for you, here are some tools to help you with this step:
Google Scholar – if your topic requires academic research results, use Google Scholar. You will see peer-reviewed studies, books, articles, journals, etc.
Google Search Operators – When using Google it will do well for you to learn the many operators it has so that you can get more specific results. Here is an article on what you can do with google search.
Youtube – Videos are also an excellent source of useful documents such as how-to guides. You may be able to find a new perspective on the topics once the way they are presented changes.
A word on blogs
Don’t immediately jump into blogging research, as you might find yourself recovering a lot. Just start looking for relevant blogs once you already have a specific plan in mind (but not mandatory). Check Alltop and Reddit for the tracks.
Find articles that are closely related to your main topic and determine if they are valuable enough to be used as research material.
- Does the article or post in question have a lot of shares on social media?
- What about the comments?
- Is this one of their best performing items?
In general, these metrics are what you want to see because it usually means people have responded favorably to them.
Separate good comments from bad comments. Find out what readers had to say in the comments section, and learn how to filter the good from the bad. Categorizing them will act as your Dos and Don’ts when writing your book or article.
Keep a copy of everything that is relevant to your topic, including the link (s) (this is research, you need to review your sources a lot), compile them in one place and make them semi-organized – basically know or you can find what as soon as possible. Once you’ve compiled everything there is to read on the topic, organize your stash according to relevance.
After this step, it is basically a matter of reading and reading and reading more, before starting the process of weave everything that works well together and throw away anything that doesn’t work. Use the outline you created earlier to guide you on what to focus on and what to write down.
Worried about spending too much (or too little time) researching? Don’t worry too much. In fact, you can finish your research in one day and start writing the next day.
Analysis, restructuring and writing
Analyze everything. Take out the not-so-relevant parts and the bad stuff. Work with what’s left on your table. So start map all clues like how private looks on TV shows do. They grab all of their newspaper clippings, photos of suspects, maps, and other forms of evidence and put it all on a cool looking board, wall, or table.
After removing non-essential items, write your final plan through divide each section using their own titles. Be sure to jot down what worked for readers and try to capture the same “lightning bolt” in your own figurative bottle.
Grouping information by relevance will also help when it comes to writing. Once your paragraphs can flow with relevance and the smooth flow in your structure is established, writing will be very easy. You already has everything you need based on your preliminary research. You just gotta make good use of it – make them work for you.
Note that while others prefer to search, read, then write, then search again, it is just plain complicated. He take your mind away from your writing. But by researching first (read: compile all relevant data), then reading everything later (and removing unwanted parts), you can focus only on your writing.
Finally, there are a few other important things to keep in mind during the writing process:
- Cite your sources correctly. (Aren’t you glad you kept all of those links?)
- Base your conclusions on the data of your research, i.e. things you can stand up for by yourself in case any questions arise about the validity of your conclusions.
- Learn to to exercise good judgment and consider both sides of the coin before choosing what you want to include in your writing. An opinion that is popular is not always right.
Remember: only write things that you can back up with credible sources. If in doubt, go without. Now go ahead and be the Sherlock Holmes of writers.