Research – Beware the Vortex by April Alieda
My favorite job, until I started writing, was a bookstore clerk in a visitor center. There wasn’t a day while I was there that I didn’t learn something new. The visitor center was more of a half-way point than a destination so rapid research was the name of the game.
The researching skills I gained at the visitor center have served me well over the years. Research lends credibility and believability to our stories. Online resources are readily available but not all resources are created equal. Wikipedia can be edited by anyone so be sure to verify the information before accepting it as fact.
I recently discovered the Archives Library Information Center (ALIC). ALIC is a division within the National Archives. The ALIC has some information, however, it is more of a resource hub of links to other sites like the American National Biography Online (ANB). Each day the ANB has a different biography spotlighted. The biography not only contains information on the person being spotlighted it also has links to friends, family, enemies, and others that are referenced in the article. This makes it easy to review the friend/family/enemies’ biographical information as well.
I’ve used information provided in the biography section as writing prompts. The biographies usually provide sufficient information to write a believable story but the fun part is incorporating a tiny kernel of falsehood. What if Edison never invented the light bulb? What could we learn about Susan B. Anthony from her nosy next door neighbor? What if Amelia Earhart completed her round the world flight?
We’ve all heard by now that balance is important. No matter how much research has to be done, we can’t let research get in the way of the writing. How many times have you stopped writing to do a quick check of one minor detail? That one minor detail takes two hours to research rather than the five minutes it should have. Unfortunately this happens to me more than I’d like to admit. There’s a never ending supply of links that tempt me – If you liked that you’ll love this – click me, click me, click me. And I do, sucked into the vortex of the Internet.
To help me escape the vortex, I now have a timer on my desk. I set the timer for ten minutes and then I connect to the Wi-Fi. If I can’t find what I’m looking for I highlight the area in the story so it’s easy to find later and I start writing again. Once my writing session ends, I look for the highlights and write down what I need verified. I use the list to remind me what information I need to look for later. Setting aside time specifically for research has also worked. I’ve found the key to success is to keep research within the time allotted.
Here are a few links you might find helpful, but avoid the vortex it isn’t as fun as it sounds –
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