I can’t say I exactly planned to be a nonfiction writer, but here I am.
It started out as a smaller endeavor, short essays or articles on a website where I’d occasionally cite a source or two. Fast forward a few years to when I found myself writing an inspirational/self-help book, a different kind of beast with many more sources.
Anyhow, I had to do research for this book because it’s nonfiction (and you have to have some credible and compelling facts and studies and whatnot) and I thought, “No biggie. I’ll just check out a stack of books from the library and find some pertinent info and be done.” Except, it’s not quite that simple.
I started reading. And marking all the books with sticky tabs with handwritten notes so I knew what to look for later. And it ended up looking like this:
I know. I know! Now what am I supposed to do with all that?
Reading through my manuscript, I tried to start placing quotes where they were needed, but I found myself scrolling up and down and getting lost, and forgetting what I was even trying to place. I was overwhelmed and feeling inadequate to the task.
Then it hit me: I needed to print out my whole MS and lay it out so I could visually see where everything needed to go and save myself the chaos of scrolling through my document.
So, that’s what I did. I spread out my chapters so I could see each one. Next, I went through each book and each tab and assessed what I needed to keep and took out the tabs marking thoughts or ideas I didn’t need to include (you can’t use everything, so dwindling down to the most important stuff is key). With the things I wanted to keep or thought I might use, I took a sticky note, wrote the title of the book, page number, and main idea of the quote or information and stuck it to the chapter or page it needed to go in. This is what it looked like when I was done:
Though this is kind of messy looking, this felt so much more manageable to me. Since I’m more of a visual learner, this was a really helpful way for me to organize everything.
Since then, I have been going through each chapter, adding in quotes and ideas where needed and making progress.
I don’t know whether this will help anyone with their writing/research process, but this was a huge break through for me.
What are your helpful research tips or tricks?
Wendy Jessen is the author of more than 450 articles—family-oriented articles on familyshare.com and book reviews. She recently started a website for something she is passionate about–helping victims of sexual abuse find hope and healing. Wendy is the mother of 6 spirited children ranging in age from 5 to 15. In the throes of writing a few books (fiction and nonfiction), she finds ways to procrastinate which usually involves scrolling through social media. Wendy often stays up way past her bedtime reading, loves kid-free date night with her husband, family vacations, and kids’ bedtime, aka, the human version of whack-a-mole.