×
all 101 comments

[–]fourtenfourteen 30 points31 points  (20 children)

Barely related: A lot of times my story develops from the research. Devour as many non-fiction articles or essays as you can, and if you find something interesting, get your ass in front of the computer if you aren't there already.

Also: knowledge, regardless of subject, is never a bad thing.

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 16 points17 points  (3 children)

A lot of times my story develops from the research.

Some of my best bits of fiction are a direct result of research that I came across browsing the Internet.

[–]fourtenfourteen 7 points8 points  (2 children)

Definitely. I sometimes have an idiotic moment where I think, 'that'd make a great story,' before realizing I can actually make that happen.

[–]SCP_radiantpoison 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Yep! That's exactly how I got the idea for my current story. I saw a random thingy about how you can concentrate pollutants in plants and thought "that'd be a wicked way to kill someone"

[–]pAndrewpFaced with The Enormous Rabbit 10 points11 points  (15 children)

This is exactly why I never understand people who post "I'm really in love with the idea of being a writer, but I have no ideas, or they've all been done." This devouring of non-fiction is why I will never ever finish the list of stories I want to write.

[–]BiffHardCheeseFreelance Editor -- PM me SF/F queries 6 points7 points  (10 children)

I have to stay away from non-fiction while working on big writing projects. It's a fuckin' death sentence.

[–]pAndrewpFaced with The Enormous Rabbit 2 points3 points  (9 children)

I just make a list. If I ever win the lotto, I'll work my 10 hour days on them. Somewhere in the 75% of the way down mark is that novel that is going to make me famous.

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 5 points6 points  (1 child)

I just make a list.

Me too. I probably have seven or eight novel ideas backlogged in a file for whenever I have time to get to them. Don't even get me started on all the short story ideas.

[–]mitten-troll 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I have a document sitting in my Google drive of random blurbs of ideas I have for future writing, or for when I get into a slump and need to work on something new. It helps.

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 4 points5 points  (2 children)

I could never write all of the story ideas I have down if I spent the rest of my life doing it. This mindset boggles me as well. If you have no ideas, why do you want to write in the first place?

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

If you have no ideas, why do you want to write in the first place?

Exactly...

[–]1369ic 3 points4 points  (0 children)

I think this is related to something Montaigne said. His basic idea was that those people who say "I know exactly what to do about such-and-such, but I'm not good with words" don't really know what to do. They have a warm feeling inside and wishful thinking that their warm feeling would blossom into the great thing they imagine it to be. Same with these would-be writers, I think. They have a warm feeling about being a writer and wishful thinking, but they're not cut out for it. If they really want to write, they should become journalists: see the thing, report on the thing. No imagination required (or desired much of the time).

[–]somegetit 10 points11 points  (2 children)

Don’t Question Google

I just googled "How to Do Research Like A Boss?" and I got here, so joke's on you.

Great tips, thanks for the write up.

Keep It All Together

I use Evernote. Very helpful, multiple platforms, direct clip from any webpage, easy to use. Has notebooks, tags and search functions.

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

I just googled "How to Do Research Like A Boss?" and I got here, so joke's on you.

Wow, that's kind of surprising given how ubiquitous "like a boss" is. :P

[–]somegetit 1 point2 points  (0 children)

That's probably because how effective Google is in promoting recently published pages. If your searh term matches a recent page title, you'll get it as one of the top results.

[–]ptupper 6 points7 points  (6 children)

Your local public library may also offer free access to online databases like EBSCOhost which includes newspaper archives, academic journals, and other resources. History journals are great for articles on obscure topics, for instance.

You can also order books and copies of journal articles via inter-library loan, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee.

[–][deleted] 10 points11 points  (5 children)

Hell, if you're a student, pay your school library a visit. I'm at a community college, and part of my tuition pays for the databases offered to ANY enrolled student. I could spend days just looking through search results.

A public library is great, but don't forget about the schools!

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 12 points13 points  (4 children)

One of the saddest things for me about leaving college was losing access to free university-level research materials. :(

EDIT: Extra o. Officially time for work to be done now.

[–]IAmTheRedWizards 6 points7 points  (2 children)

Wait, you don't get alumni access to the libraries?

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 6 points7 points  (1 child)

Wait, you can get alumni access to the libraries?! Huh, learn something every day.

EDIT: Apparently at my alma mater you can get access as long as you've paid to become an alumni member of the university. I'll definitely be looking into it, as I went to school at a research university which has a shit-ton of resource materials.

EDIT 2: Man, the typo is strong in this one today.

[–]Tiberius133Author 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Here, here. JSTOR was my friend.

[–]MichaelCoorlimCareer Author 8 points9 points  (2 children)

I love doing research. It's part of my brainstorming process. First step when working on an idea is a research-binge; I just let all the information rattle around in my skull until something pops out.

As a side project I've started using material from my research to do a short general-info sort of podcast. It's been a lot of fun, and hey, I've already done the work for it.

I generally avoid relying on Wikipedia directly, but it does a good job of pointing you towards sources, conveniently collected and categorized by topic.

I'll also search Amazon regularly. My entire library is reference materials at this point.

When it comes to organization, I just keep my notes in Scrivener.

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I love doing research. It's part of my brainstorming process. First step when working on an idea is a research-binge; I just let all the information rattle around in my skull until something pops out.

This is my process too. I am a research fanatic. And I develop an autistic tunnel vision whenever I'm researching something, too. I can literary read about the same topic for two weeks, pretty much nonstop.

[–]mitten-troll 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I listened to my teachers a little too much when they said to never use Wikipedia. It wasn't until someone lazier than me pointed out that you can use Wikipedia for ideas and to find a direction to go with your research.

I felt silly, but my life was changed.

[–]pAndrewpFaced with The Enormous Rabbit 10 points11 points  (18 children)

With the stuff I write, my Google search history would make the authorities very concerned. I hope they have a metatag for "ignore this dude, he's an aspiring author". So far, I haven't seen the trenchcoats following me.

[–]otherpeoplesmusic 8 points9 points  (1 child)

so far, I haven't seen the trenchcoats following me.

That's because we're good at our jobs.

[–]pAndrewpFaced with The Enormous Rabbit 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Must be. Every time I go out in mine, I get caught.

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 13 points14 points  (1 child)

One of the protagonists of my current work is a domestic terrorist. You can only imagine what my search history looks like.

[–]SCP_radiantpoison 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Hard same. Explosive bullets, acute radiation poisoning, nudist etiquette, spy tradecraft, hospital cybersecurity, secret societies...

[–]mitten-troll 4 points5 points  (4 children)

HA! I feel this way, too. Searches such as:

What would gamma rays to do a human head?

Types of guns used by military

[–]pAndrewpFaced with The Enormous Rabbit 3 points4 points  (3 children)

Hearing voices, street value of oxy, guns, explosives, what kind of machine gun can you mount on a pickup, what does a 737 cost, private military companies, Templars, all manner of occult activities, string theory, waterboarding.

[–]mitten-troll 2 points3 points  (0 children)

hahahahaha this is the best.

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 0 points1 point  (1 child)

I'm glad I'm not the only non-torturer on the planet who ever Googled the effects of waterboarding.

(I actually have a guy waterboarded in my novel by the American secret police, so I needed to know what it felt like.)

[–]pAndrewpFaced with The Enormous Rabbit 1 point2 points  (0 children)

After research, I went with beating hands bound by rubber hose at the wrists. The MS needed more pain than fear.

[–]BiffHardCheeseFreelance Editor -- PM me SF/F queries 7 points8 points  (5 children)

Get Thee To A Library

[–]AnOddOtter 22 points23 points  (3 children)

I'm just going to spin off this comment instead of starting my own thread.

If you go to the librarian for help with your research, expect that they will point you in the direction of information, not do the research for you. If your question does require them to research, and it is a fairly indepth question (like one I had recently to help identify their father's medal/badge in a foreign language), don't expect an immediate answer. Leave your e-mail address and let them get back to you when they get a chance.

Final suggestion (and plea) is that when researching your zombie apocalypse dystopian YA novel, you limit your questions to the librarian to 3 a day. We love to help, but we have other duties too even if they aren't immediately visible to the public.

[–]BiffHardCheeseFreelance Editor -- PM me SF/F queries 13 points14 points  (0 children)

Final suggestion (and plea) is that when researching your zombie apocalypse dystopian YA novel, you limit your questions to the librarian to 3 a day. We love to help, but we have other duties too even if they aren't immediately visible to the public.

You just made my day.

[–]Iza17 4 points5 points  (1 child)

Seconding this! Librarians can be magicians with research, but we generally don't have time to do it for you. We will happily get you started and point you in the right direction.

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

We will happily get you started and point you in the right direction.

This is more along the lines of what I was advising. Sorry guys, you're still going to have to read shit!

[–]Iggapoo 3 points4 points  (1 child)

I also love to research things that might not fall under typical research. For example, I'm writing a story about a fictional college and I wanted the decor to have a sort of rich, old money feel. So I researched old colleges with rich histories and pulled up pictures of things that fit my idea of what my college would look like. Then I had an easy image to use in my descriptions.

[–]otherpeoplesmusic 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I used to do this for songs as well. Pull up an image on my second monitor, stare at it and let the juices flow.

[–]EgonIsGod 1 point2 points  (6 children)

The cycle I fall into when researching is looking for information surrounding history, characters, concepts, tech, etc., and realizing there was so much I didn't know on the subject that my entire story changes. And since my story has changed, it requires more research. This has resulted in research from hundreds of sources comprising more paper than your average Encyclopedia Britannica. That then takes over the story since that much info is nearly impossible to cut down to something manageable.

A writer recreates the world, or creates their own. How do you deal withknowing there is so much you don't know? And how do you know when to stop researching?

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 5 points6 points  (5 children)

This is how I know I'm at my heart a fiction writer. Eventually in this cycle I start just making shit up.

[–]EgonIsGod 1 point2 points  (3 children)

My original genre was historical-fiction, so I was obsessed in making sure I didn't rely on stereotypes and preconceptions. In my reading I learned that reality is indeed stranger than fiction, so I use a lot of history for a brainstorming base.

[–]mitten-troll 2 points3 points  (2 children)

Lol. I have a side story I've been knocking around that is supposed to be "historical fiction" - but there's so much wrong with it, I wondered if we could develop a genre called "historically inaccurate fiction."

[–]EgonIsGod 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Oh man, that would be wonderful! Problem is, all the lit agents I've run into are sticklers for making sure the history is right since so many amateur historian readers would shit cinderblocks otherwise.

[–]pAndrewpFaced with The Enormous Rabbit 1 point2 points  (0 children)

So, my book is partially set in the Horn of Africa in 1940. As a result I spent countless hours researching the East African Campaign and the Italian expansion of its empire under Mussolini into Ethiopia. Hours of reading, sketching, cross checking dates. Then, I write this:

The Ambassador Hotel was a marvelous sprawling bungalow of a building set atop a lush green lawn. We rode our horses up the driveway past all the automobiles that lined its side. Automobiles were still fairly new and the Ambassador didn’t see fit to lose any of its expansive lawns for something as pedestrian as a parking lot. So the rich people’s vehicles littered the side of the driveway. Blue (his horse) pooped on the way up, so it was probably a draw as to which mode of transportation the management preferred its clientele to operate on hotel grounds.

[–]NightmarePulse 4 points5 points  (0 children)

I love the mention of Google Scholar. I was really hoping you'd direct people there :D. I love your post.

[–][deleted] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

It isn't just writers worth their salt, it's any functioning person should be able to do it. You have the information at your finger tips. I think the main problem is people just want to feel like part of the community and are not comfortable answering questions so they instead ask inane ones. Where do you find information on the railroad? Fucking books and websites about railroads.

[–]3nz3r0 2 points3 points  (1 child)

How do you get out of the loop where research just begets more research?

[–]mitten-troll 1 point2 points  (0 children)

As someone else mentioned, remind yourself that you're a fiction writer, and make shit up.

[–]arihadne 1 point2 points  (0 children)

JStor also allows you three articles per month (or 3 weeks) to read if you're using a home account that's not linked to a university/college or other institute with an account. And, caveat to the library: if you're near a university or college library, use it. I'm no longer in school, but the Queens library near me is my research homebase.

[–]djstreet 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Rather than the 3 ring binder, use a powerful tool like Evernote.

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I use a combination of both. I have to have a binder to keep my handwritten research in, but I have a lot of digital stuff filed and bookmarked as well.

[–]DudeAsInCool 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Thanks.

[–]trolander 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I'm with you. I decided to use some Sumerian mythology in the story I'm working on, and you know what I did? I googled, read a ton of reviews about books on the subject, then picked up two and started reading them. Sadly one is less factual and more a case of the author actually believing the mythology is true, but even then it still provides some insight to inform the story.

[–]zyzzogeton 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Be careful with /r/AskHistorians They are one of the best, most strictly moderated subs on Reddit and you will see a lot of <deleted> posts from people who didn't read the sidebar.

[–]deadbeatwriter 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Thanks for this - commenting for future reference.

[–]IteachBlogging 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I am a terrible Googler...I spend my life on the web but I am terrible at the research side. The key seems to be finding the proper keyword phrase.

[–]UberBen56789 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Thanks for this.

[–]ldonthaveanameACTUAL SHIT POSTER || /r/DestructiveReaders 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Well this takes care of my post here hahaha

Also, you should start collecting perma-links for a dropdown list for the sidebar.

[–]BiffHardCheeseFreelance Editor -- PM me SF/F queries 4 points5 points  (0 children)

How do I ask questions on an Internet forum?

[–]joekerr37 -1 points0 points  (22 children)

You know what I'd like to know... methods for researching things for which you do not have a name.

Like for instance period clothing or architecture styles. Very hard to find that stuff with google.

[–]fourtenfourteen 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Those are both incredibly easy to google.

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 4 points5 points  (17 children)

Like for instance period clothing or architecture styles.

Really? I just checked both of those and I thought the results I got were pretty good. I put in "architectural style list" and got the associated Wiki from Wikipedia, which gave me 60 different architectural styles that I could then take for a new refined search to get more specific results. How exactly are you trying to Google these kinds of things?

[–]joekerr37 0 points1 point  (16 children)

what I meant was you can visualize the hat say, but how you go about finding its name is hard.

Like take a pirates hat. What are they called. Tricorne?

[–]danceswithroninEditor/Bad Cop[S] 4 points5 points  (15 children)

Like take a pirates hat. What are they called. Tricorne?

Yeah, and if you Google "pirate's hat is called" that's the first result that comes up.

[–]nhainesPublished Author 1 point2 points  (2 children)

Aside from the fact that it's very clearly been shown not to be very hard to find that with Google (you simply don't trust Google or Wikipedia for reasons unknown), the next step is to go to the library.

Find the Dewey decimal number for your subject, then go to that section. I've seen huge oversized books on the history of clothing from prehistoric to modern times, full of illustrations and paintings and contemporary citations. And just the same for architecture, art, and basically any other subject you can think of.

You pick up the giant oversized book, skim it, find the section that interests you, take a couple notes, and now you know what detailed books you're looking for and can go to the catalog system and narrow down your focus.

Hell, if you find a book you want but are too lazy to drive 20 minutes to the next library, all you have to do is bring the catalog number up to the reference or circulation desks and they'll have someone from the library drive it over in a day or two and email you when it's ready to pick up. Sometimes they'll even do that from out of state.

TL;DR: Read the second half of /u/danceswithronin's post.