Welcome to the 3 series of writing 101. Here are the strategies for making writing easier. Today we're on research. A word of warning about research: try to do what your outline tells you you need to research before you start writing the story. If when writing something comes up you need to research the details of, mark it and continue writing. Do not stop to research in the middle of a story!



Research used to be like searching through this...but now we have computers and the Interwebs!



  
 

Why? Because, and let's be honest, you'll be doing your research primarily on the web. And, again being honest, you'll likely start with Wikipedia which leads to clicking links, which leads to watching videos, which leads to procrastobastion with fuzzy kittens. Happens to us all, and slows us down, so let's cut down on it.

Let's make it very easy. If you're a writer we can assume some things; 1) you're an introvert 2) you're busy as hell and 3) you're shockingly good at hiding how lazy you are. Seriously, all people are lazy, writers are great at hiding it. As such 99% of your research will be online. Seriously. Introverts like as little human interaction as possible and the net saves time. It's a godsend, use it.

So where do you start? Simple, do a Google search. Be as specific as you can, and if that doesn't work try being broader. Prepare to do reading. "Spartan coins of 90-75BCE" might be too much for Google to find, so try "Spartan coins of the first century BCE." If that doesn't work try "Spartan coins." Once you get to the page with info you might need, you need to look for a few things:A) who wrote it? If you Google their name does anything real come up? B) What kind of a site is it? Professional or educational is good, personal...not always, but can be depending on the author. C) How many references are cited? Are they linked? If not can you Google them and get a hit? In short the more solid the page the better. Remember it should have all thrree categories: Wikipedia is references but is personal, and the authors of the articles cannot be traced. Hell, for fun I edit them with super-fun sex facts, no kidding. Don't judge me, everybody needs a hobby.



This position is called the Sikorsky, and when done right the man gets to spin around!



  
 

Now Wikipedia can be a good place to start. Why? Check out the references. They will have what you need. Or Google a few sources, not just Wikipedia. If they all agree...frigging great, but if not, oh boy, you gotta choose the best one in your opinion. Take old gods/goddesses. If they aren't Greek no two sites agree on every point. In that case trust the college theology professor and not the kid with angelfire animated gif party site with auto-playing music. 

Seriously, it's that simple. Try to find three sources that agree and you're golden. Make sure those sources cite their research, the authors have some history, and ideally the source is education or professional. Now what in that 1% of times, do you do when the Googles, they do nothing!? The simple truth: reach out and touch someone. Or email them, like the lazy crafty bastard you are.

Here's where experts are great. I have a friend authoring a gaming system and needed to know something extremely specific that was nowhere on line. I got him in touch with a professor at a local university that could help. If you can't find the information you want find an expert in the field that contains that information. Email or call them. Be respectful and concise, have written questions. Be sure to take their information and thank them in your author's notes when you write and publish your work.



Be sure to vette your "experts" thoroughly.Professional accreditation and acknowledgement within their field is good. Being on TMZ doesn't count. 



  
 

If what you need to research is something that is currently practiced (being a cop, commercial fishing) you might find FAQ sites or how-to sites that are official. If not find an official group and contact their public liaison. Be brief, to-the-point, and explain you are a fiction writer and what you need to know, along with your contact info. If it's something more historical or theoretical, look up the people in local schools that teach that subject. Don't go for the researchers, as a former researcher I can tell you they have no time. Teachers don't have much more, so try at least three your first time, if you're lucky one will respond. If not, keep going until someone does. Again be brief, concise, and include your full info.

Research is that simple. Why people are too lazy to even do these simple steps is beyond me. Seriously, if you were the kind of person who copied & pasted Wikipedia articles in school, you should never be a writer. Hell, Wikipedia didn't even exist when I was a student, we had to do our cheating the old-fashioned way. So the work is simple enough if you're willing to do it. And you should be, good research means smooth facts, which keeps the landscape smooth and even for your reader. Getting facts wrong jerks people out of the moment, makes them unable to suspend their disbelief.

It is time-consuming, so you can see why it must be done before writing your first draft or between writing your first draft and editing it. If you research in the middle of things you get distracted and that's never a good thing. So happy hunting, remember knowledge may be a needle in a haystack, but Google is your magnet!


 
 
Enough said.