Monday, April 21, 2014

Research... but, how?

So there’s been this story rattling around in my brain for a couple years now, but I haven’t known how to even begin. I've wavered between casting it as a proper historical drama or a more fanciful steampunk tale – the problem with starting is that either way I had no idea where to begin all the research this particular story requires.

Until I read this lovely post by Michelle Ule and her extremely helpful step-by-step research process on the Books & Such Literary Management blog.

In summary, Michelle recommends:
  1. Start with the synopsis. How else will you know what to research?
  2. Read everything!
  3. Google, Google, Google. Fact check, fact check, fact check.
  4. Join online interest groups.
  5. Save interesting documents. She emails interesting documents to herself and stores them in a labeled email folder for easy future reference.
  6. Yay! Pinterest!
  7. Yay! Movies!
  8. Yay! Travel!
  9. Talk to everyone, you never know who will have fascinating input.
Now the story in my head has moved from rattling to clamoring, the characters moving from mere shadows to almost substantial ghosts.

I’m excited to learn who they are, what they wear, how they speak - and whether or not they'll submit to the indignities of dirigible travel over Lake Erie.

What are your favorite research techniques? Do you write first, research later? What are your favorite go-to sources?

Jane Wells has always gravitated toward reading material that pushed other people’s buttons. In 2nd grade it was a dinosaur book that upset her teacher at a Baptist school. Now it’s vampires and dystopias that catch her imagination. In them she finds parables and allegories illustrating God’s ancient plan in a language that is uniquely modern – and easily understood by people who may have never set foot inside a church. Glitter in the Sun and Bird on Fire are the results.
Always a writer, Jane’s “real jobs” have included newspaper journalism, youth ministry, sewing machine sales and marketing for a publishing house. Currently she is back to “just a writer” again, while juggling all the typical domestic duties of wife and mother, homeschooling two boys, managing two needy Golden Retrievers and answering to one very demanding cat.


  1. Jane, I love this post! This is also good for someone (ahem, me) who might be stuck in their plot, and be unsure what to write next. BTW, the book you talk about wanting to write sounds amazing! I can't wait to hear more. =)

    1. Thank you, Merrie! Now that I know where the "Start" square is, I can begin!

  2. Thanks for the mention, Jane! I've had a lot of fun researching projects over the years and have written about the most extraordinary things I've found on my personal website. It's been pure joy. I wish you the best in your work.

    1. Thank you, Michelle, for your kind words and your inspiration!
      One of the most exciting things, to me, is that the time and place I want to start the story encompasses some fascinating family history. I can't wait to dig in!