Erica here. I'm thrilled to have my friend Sally Bradley on the blog today. She is a fabulous writer, detailed editor, and all around cool lady. She lives in my beloved home state of Kansas, having been transplanted there from the Windy City. We have a good-natured rivalry going about the White Sox and the Cubs, and she feels no pressure since my Cubs haven't been successful since Teddy Roosevelt was President. :)
A big thank you to Erica for hosting me today. Everyone’s back from conference, and the writing juices are probably flowing. That twist on the story idea, the change an editor requested, a sub-plot needed to beef up word count... so much going on! So much writing to do.
Then comes that wall known as research.
I like doing research as much as anybody, but my issue is that I don’t know what I need to research until I need that bit of info. While I write contemporary settings, it’s still amazing at all the different things I had to research for Kept, my debut novel. Off the top of my head, I researched Illinois child support laws, the history of Chicago’s Grant Park and the Chicago fire, length of flights between two major cities and Chicago, history of Metropolitan Tower—a 1920s building my main characters live in, some Downton Abbey refreshers since that plays a role, how a major league baseball team handles pitching injuries, and food allergies.
Talk about variety.
So how do you handle all that random research that pops up? Personally, I can’t just type XXX and go on, coming back at the end to figure out what needs to go there. Sometimes those details are critical—super critical!—and we need them now. So how do you do research and not bring your writing to a standstill?
First, do plan ahead when possible. This is a no-brainer, but sometimes we don’t think through our story and some of the big things we need to research. Take some time to look at the story objectively. Make lists; think technically, not... um, storyifically. (New word. Just made it up.) In other words, don’t look at the story but the elements—setting, weather, dress, transportation, stuff that’s unique to your book’s era.
For me, that meant requesting my library get The Encyclopedia of Chicago since I’d planned on one character being a Chicago history trivia expert. That didn’t end up happening, but one bit of info from the book played a key role in an early scene. Doing pre-writing research also meant spending a lot of time on realtor sites so I could get a handle on my hero’s and heroine’s condos and spending oodles of time on Google Earth, seeing each setting through my characters’ eyes.
Second, set a timer. We’ve all been down the research rabbit trail. History, research, how things work—it can all be incredibly fascinating, right? And who knows if you’ll find something that gives you that next book idea! Goodness, with that kind of thinking, it’s amazing we ever get words on the page.
So set a timer for something short. Think you can quickly find the answer online? Set that timer for three minutes. If you haven’t found it when it goes off, set it for another three. Just do something that will knock you off that rabbit trail, should you easily succumb like I do.
Third, write using 1K1HR. I love this Facebook page. You post the time you start, and your goal is to write one thousand words by the time the hour ends. If that one hour and one thousand word deadline is hanging over your head, it’s a lot harder to get sucked down random research trails or get lost on Facebook or in email. Or in cleaning all the toilets in the house.
Yeah, that never happens to me, either.
Fourth, be honest about when you’ve got what you need. For whatever reason, I tend to be a bit OCD about my research. I find the information, but then I want to double check it and get more info from somewhere else—which isn’t bad. They do say you need three sources to prove historical facts. But sometimes we get carried away. We keep researching and researching when, for Pete’s sake!, we’ve already established that the gym in Metropolitan Tower is on the seventh floor and even have pictures of the machines. (No, that’s not something I experienced personally... I think.)
I bet you all have your own ideas for how to keep research from taking over your writing time. I’d love to hear them. Comment away, please.
Erica here again: Here's some praise for Sally's debut novel Kept.
"Gutsy and fast-paced."—Laura Frantz, author of Love's Reckoning
"One of the most surprising and best books I’ve read this year."—MaryLu Tyndall, best-selling author of Legacy of the King's Pirates series
From the back cover:
Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her—all have proven undependable. But Miska has life under control. She runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago's lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman.
Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father's sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can't help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she's longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again.
When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes that her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her—a woman who's gone too far and done too much.
Sally Bradley writes big-city fiction with real issues and real hope. A Chicagoan since age five, she now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they still get back to Chicago once in a while for important things—like good pizza and a White Sox game. Fiction has been her passion since childhood, and she’s thrilled now to be writing books that not only entertain, but point back to Christ. Kept is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo
Remember to come back tomorrow when Sally will be giving away a copy of KEPT to one person who leaves a comment.