Novel Research: My WIP Research Process

Novel research can be a daunting task if you are not the type who gravitates to research, study or spending hours on minute details. Unfortunately for those types but fortunate for people like myself, research is critical to writing. Whether research for you means learning about specific types of military vehicles or the ranks of nobility in 14th century Europe, you are (probably) going to have to look something up along the way.

When to Conduct Novel Research

As you begin writing the first draft of your novel you may find yourself questioning the minutiae of setting, plot, character, etc. You can start your research here, or may even have already conducted extensive research before writing a single word if you are a good planner. If you’re a pantser, you may find yourself glossing over specific details to avoid the research until the first draft is complete.

While putting off research is okay sometimes, you may want to take the time to ensure the story you’re crafting makes sense. You may create a plot based on an inaccurate detail that completely derails your second draft, basically meaning your novel needs rewriting. Where the particulars contribute substantially to your plot, even if you are not a planner you need to conduct some research to corroborate these details. If you take the time now to insert accurate details, you will save yourself time and frustration later. Researching while writing the first draft can also be an excellent trigger for writer’s block!

Where to Conduct Novel Research

So, you want to start researching a detail in your story. Where do you start? Google is the most obvious place for most people to begin searching. My day job is a Reference Librarian and Information Literacy Instructor at a community college academic library. That means I spend all day telling students not to Google their research. Our students have access to expensive research databases which allows them to prioritize their research origins. If you are not a student, or you struggle with research, you have a few other options that aren’t Google.

Public Libraries

Yes. I am a librarian advocating for you to visit libraries. Conflict of interest? Maybe. Public libraries are excellent research hubs for the beginning writer AND the seasoned writer. Why pay for books, databases, or magazines when you can get them for free? Many public libraries purchase the same database subscriptions that colleges have. They also accept recommendations for resources so if the library doesn’t have something if you ask they may get it. The public library is filled with people who are there to help you.

Wikipedia Resources

Wikipedia is not exactly a reputable site. There is a degree of accountability in the structure of writing and editing. You create a free account and correct inaccuracies. During my Freshman Year Experience class, we experimented by deliberately changing a Wikipedia article to make it inaccurate. We charted how long the false information remained unchanged. My material remained incorrect for weeks. That was a lot of views during this time that fake details were portrayed as trustworthy. However, users cite outside resources at the end of Wikipedia articles. This section is a gold mine of research opportunities. Explore these links and exercise critical thinking in determining if that source is accurate itself.

Check the site type (.com, .gov, .edu., .org, etc.). Look at the date the site was last updated. See if the site has an about page and read about the authors and their intent.

You may think researching to this degree is overkill for fiction but if you encounter a reader who is an actual expert you run the risk of alienating them.

Digital Collections

There are a plethora of digital resources available online. Images, ebooks, videos, and audio (radio broadcasts, etc.). The New York Public Library is one example of a collection of publicly available digital items that can be used for research. The Library of Congress is another primary source. One of the big inspirations for my novel was The Hammer of Witches. The full text is available online and provided me with a lot of information about witch hunting practices and how they were persecuted. Many older books can be accessed for free in full online through various reputable sites like Project Gutenberg. Aside from LOC, NYPL, and Project Gutenberg, there are less scholarly, artistic platforms like DeviantArt and Pinterest. Content on these sites is added by online users. These are more useful for inspiration though Pinterest can be helpful for storing your research in an easy to view and access platform.

Online Forums

In addition to these resources, there are online forums. Online forums should always be approached with caution. The community determines the usefulness of the information you can find in forums. Writing sites with forums like NaNoWriMo and Writer’s Digest are helpful. Subreddits for writers can also be useful. You can post for advice on conducting research, search for beta readers who can help you catch inaccuracies, or search for perspectives that are similar to your characters to garner a more honest representation. Your peers can be a valuable resource if they approach your inquiries with the right intentions.

Fact-Checking the First Draft and Beyond

Once you have completed your first draft, you still have some research to do. If you didn’t check the details central to your plot, mark your first draft up noting where more information is needed. Verify details, even small ones. The tiniest inconsistency can propel the reader out of your story.

  • What are the properties of an herbal remedy?
  • What did armor look like in France in 1365?
  • How did priests determine who was a witch in Germany in 1450?

However, these are my specific research questions. Wherever you explore something you are not sure of, check the detail.

  • Who was President of the U.S. in 1914?
  • What are the symptoms of lupus?

I recommend printing the first draft and either highlighting or using a pen to mark everywhere you need to insert research or check the facts.

With every read through, a second draft, third draft, etc. you will be looking at where you can improve/strengthen your manuscript. You cannot be overconfident. You need to doubt yourself and check, double check, triple check your story.

Check out my other posts on writing!

Writing Inspiration: How to Trigger Your Muse When All She Wants to Do is Take a Nap

A How-To Guide for Writer’s on Pinterest

And When You Finish That First Draft…

Prepping the First Draft: A Second Draft Diagnosis

A How-To Guide for Writers on Pinterest

Pinterest can be a fantastic tool for cataloging information from home improvement ideas to parenting tips. Did you know that you can also use Pinterest as a writing tool? True, it is not a great platform for interacting one-on-one with other people. Fortunately, writing involves a lot of solitary time for research and inspiration.

Signing up for Pinterest (C’mon, you know you already have an account)

The process of creating a Pinterest account is relatively simple if you don’t already have one. I have my Pinterest linked to my Facebook account, making registration quick and straightforward. If you don’t want to connect your social media accounts, you can create a new account with your email address. (If you do decide to create a Pinterest profile using Facebook, it will use the email address associated with your Facebook account.)

Private v. Public Boards

Once your Pinterest account is created, you can start pinning articles, websites, images, etc. You pin these resources to collections called boards. These boards can be public, meaning anyone can view the items you save here. If you would prefer to keep your content private, when you create your board, just set the button to “Secret.”

Secret Pinterest Board Dialog Box
Click the “Secret” button to make your board private.

However, if you do not make your board private, you may notice that people can follow your board, meaning they will receive notifications when you add resources. You can also follow other boards in the same way, receiving alerts when things are added to the boards you follow.

Creating Pins

So, you have created a board for your writing project (or a single aspect of it like research, aesthetic, or technical advice), now you ready to add pins! A pin is an icon with an image and link attached that consists of the resource you want to add to your board. Think of it like the push pin that holds a photograph to your corkboard at home above your desk.

There are a couple of different methods for creating a pin.

Creating a Pin On Pinterest

You can add a pin to Pinterest directly on the website.

Create a Pin button on Pinterest
Click the plus button beside the search bar on Pinterest to open the dialog box which allows you to create a Pin.
Create a Pin Dialog Box with all features
Add an image, link, and description to create a Pin. The more information you provide, the more useful the Pin will be in the future.
Create a Pin Dialog Box with the option to insert website URL
Enter a website URL to generate a Pin.

The above option is customizable within the website itself. However, there is one other option to creating Pins that does not require entering the website.

Creating a Pin Using the Pinterest Browser Extension(Google Chrome)

If you prefer, you can add the Pinterest browser extension to your web browser. I installed this extension through the Chrome Web Store.

Chrome Extension for Pinterest from Chrome Web Store
Add the Pinterest extension to your Google Chrome and pin directly from your browser!

Once you have downloaded the extension it will show in your web browser along with any other extensions you have, next to the URL search bar.

During your research, you can use the extension to Pin a webpage, or webpage resource such as an image, without navigating to Pinterest itself. From the resource’s webpage, you will click the browser extension icon and create the Pin according to the following steps.

Pinterest Extension in Browser Example
The Pinterest Browser Extension will install and be available from your browser next to the URL search bar.
Pinning from Browser Selecting Image for Link
Once you click on the Pinterest browser extension you will be prompted to choose an image that accompanies the link.
Select a board for your pin from Pinterest extension
Once you choose the image you want to pin you must select the board you want to pin to. Clicking “Pin” finalizes the pin creation and will automatically exit you from the dialog box, returning you to the webpage.

Creating Writing-Centric Boards

You may have various preferences for how you conduct research and get inspiration for your writing projects. Pinterest boards are just one of a myriad of ways you can compile and optionally display your resources, inspiration, etc.

Boards can be organized into subboards, allowing you to more specifically sort resources under a broad subject. For instance, creating a board for your writing project, then subboards for the various aspects of writing your story. I have broken my WIP board down into three subboards, aesthetic, research, and general writing advice.

Aesthetic

Creating a writing aesthetic means compiling things that capture the feeling you want to convey in your novel or things that place you in the mood to write your particular story. For instance, my current WIP is a YA fantasy about medieval witches. My writing board for this project is filled with art of witches, witchy items, spells, and other Wicca related resources. The artwork enables me to visualize the atmosphere I want to convey in my writing. The spells and witchy items likewise provide inspiration for actual scene setting and plot.

(WIP aesthetic example)

Research

Similar to things that might capture the feeling of your story, research that you compile can range from images of clothing, historical or fantasy objects, incantations, recipes, myths and fairy tales, charts, etc. On my WIP board, I separated pins that I consider specific to research for that story from pins of more general writing advice.

(WIP research example)

General Writing Advice

This is an optional subboard and can really be its own topic board if desired. I have one separate board for “Writing Inspiration” pins. Then I have my individual writing project boards with writing advice pins that I feel more succinctly meet my needs for that story. This can encompass avoiding bad writing habits like using the word “very” too much to ways to write believable emotional scenes.

(WIP writing advice example)

Happy Pinning!

In conclusion, I hope I was able to provide some helpful information on how to use Pinterest as a writer. Pinterest, unlike other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, provides an interesting format that is more accessible to the user than followers. I love the box format of displaying my information and find the layout particularly helpful with images.

Check out my other posts on writing advice and inspiration!