It’s possible that you already have all the information and knowledge necessary to write your book, but if not, you will need to do start researching the material for your book.
It is easy to avoid writing about something you don’t know but if including certain information makes your book complete and rounded, the only way to fill the gaps is by doing research. If you haven’t done any research for a while, here are some tips to get you started.
Work out what you need to research before you start writing
This sounds so obvious but it’s easy to think you can fill in the gaps as you go along. Avoid doing this if possible as it will disrupt your writing rhythm. Before you begin writing, go through each chapter and make a note of any areas you need to get more information about. It could be that you need a few statistics to bolster a viewpoint, some quotations or to fill in a few gaps in your knowledge.
Make a list of what you want and then decide the best way to find the information. The Internet is the most obvious place to look, but you may have what you need in your library of books, notes or from programmes you have bought.
Divide your research into types of information: quotes, stats, references and new information for example and then find all your quotes, all your stats etc, rather than flitting from one kind of research to another. This will get you into a groove and make finding what you need quicker.
When it comes to doing research on a topic you don’t know much about, the easiest way to ensure you find out what you need to know is by asking questions. This is because questions get your mind into a fact-finding, answer-discovering state. When you are in this state, you will pick out the data you need much faster as you will mentally discard anything that isn’t relevant. When this happens, you are less likely to get bogged down in too much detail so you keep moving forward.
Know when to stop
It’s easy to discover too much information and find it difficult to stop reading and learning. You may also risk getting overwhelmed with all the stuff you could say but have chosen not to – in this book, at least. You need a stop button or your book will never get started, you’ll get thrown off-course.
To prevent yourself from getting distracted, stop researching as soon as you have the information you need. Don’t be tempted to keep going. The only time you can keep reading is if you have found information that contradicts or undermines your book in such a way that it would make going ahead with your original book idea impossible. If that happens, do a small amount of additional research and as soon as you have established whether this new information is significant or not, stop and then simply decide how you are going to handle this new information in your book.
Research always carries a risk: you might discover something that you wish you hadn’t but, equally, without research your book could end up with gaps that weaken its impact. If possible, do research in defined blocks of time and focus on finding different types of information in one session rather than flitting around from one type to another.
Above all, know when to stop, and when to use what you find or leave it out. That might not be an easy decision to make, but remember, if you have to bend your structure to get it in, it probably doesn’t fit and needs to go. Trust your instincts but if you’re not sure, get some feedback as a reader will be able to tell you in moments what it will take you hours to discern.
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