Last week, I wrote about feeling overwhelmed with my project, and how uncertain I was where to even begin. So I finally made a plan and set some goals. I decided in February (and the last week of January), I would focus on research.
So far, it’s been going well. I’ve got quite a stack of books on my floor about various aspects of the Revolutionary War, slavery, and other topics related to my manuscript. I’ve started a few of these so far and already have learned a lot. I watched a six-hour documentary about the War. I contacted the research library I mentioned and got some great resources from them and will be finalizing an appointment shortly. All things considered, I’ve definitely made some progress.
Here is some of what I’ve learned about research so far.
- Do not be afraid to reach out to experts, or to try and utilize resources that look like they’re only for academic professionals. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Unfocused research (a.k.a. random Wikipedia wanderings) is important and can contribute a lot to your manuscript. But it should not replace focused, disciplined research directly related to the topic of your story.
- You don’t have to know everything before you write your story. You can fix it later. Always remember: you can fix bad writing. The only way to fix a blank page is to write.
- Write down exactly what you know you need to research. I have found this helps keep me on track and not get sidetracked with materials that are not relevant.
Now a few fun facts that I have learned from my research so far:
- There was a double agent during the Revolutionary War named Jim. He was a slave that (as far as I can tell) joined the Continental Army, then volunteered to act as a spy. The intelligence he gathered was “instrumental in helping to defeat the British during the Battle of Yorktown.” Um, how have I never heard of him before? I know what my next project will be. Yup.
- General John Burgoyne liked to write plays. I don’t know why, but I find this highly amusing.
- Benjamin Franklin played the guitar, harp, and violin.
- The tavern keeper was often the local political boss.
- This, from Benjamin Franklin.
- George Washington was made an honorary citizen of France, and was posthumously made the highest ranking officer ever in the US military.
That’s what I’ve been working on this week. Do you have a project of your own that you are working on? Do you have any research tips? I’d love to hear them!