All nonfiction writers have to go through a writer’s block at some point of their career. This block may include struggles with ideas or the writing part, but the most common struggle is based on gathering information. After all, the information you will gather will influence the choice of topic, story, and even type of writing.
‘No one can write a good piece without any research. None of us is so perfect to know everything there is to know about the topic or the idea. Researching a lot makes you a better writer, not a worse one.’ -says Kelly Smith, a content writer at Aussiewritings.com.
Seeing that the research process is one of the key steps in writing a quality piece, you must implement all techniques in your writing to achieve greatness. Here are some ideas to guide you in the right direction.
1. Research Other Writings
When it comes to research, you can never know which source will bring you inspiration. Read everything you can get your hands on, starting from other related articles and books, to materials written by experts in the area of interest. With the advancement in technology, your options are now limitless.
2. Interview Others
Your story must be based on some real findings. Writing impossible things in a non-fiction book is the biggest mistake you can make, so make sure that everything you use in it is realistic.
For this purpose, you can use your interviewing skills to speak to witnesses, experts and professionals in the subject of your interest. These will help you check if everything you are trying to use is realistic and true, as well as give you some fresh ideas to include in the piece.
3. Choose the Topic
Even though this seems like the first part and therefore, a no-brainer for every piece, it really isn’t. Many writers focus on the final product and don’t narrow down the topic. At the end, they have a too general piece that is interesting to almost no one, or a long book with an unattainable goal.
Before you even start writing, have a clear and narrowed-down topic. Research the field and the subject and make sure you have a clear idea of the topic. This is the only way to start a great piece of non-fiction writing.
4. Make a Map
We are not speaking of the traditional map, unless not if you are not planning to include one n your book. We are talking about a content plan in the form of an outline or table of contents. Making such a plan from the beginning will serve as your map throughout the writing process. It will keep you focused and remind you of every piece of information you need to include in the piece.
Of course, making a map is also something you must do while researching. The main goal of your research is to find relevant information to use in the writing, and creating a plan for them is a way to remember them once you start the writing process.
5. Create a To-Do List
Use your content plan to add the research items you found, then turn this map in a to-do list. Take things step by step – make a list of books and articles you found or plan to find, write down places you want to visit or people to speak to, and plan the timeframe you want to finish all this within.
Of course, set realistic goals. Research is not something to be taken in a hurry.
6. Organize Your Materials
Once you have gathered as much of your research as possible, organize the materials. Copy the articles into your Evernote, use a Word doc to copy the URLs into, make some hard copies and put them in a folder, transcribe the interviews, etc.
In addition to all this, take the time to highlight important facts and quotes you are planning to use to avoid spending hours looking for them in the materials. If you want to use photos or other published materials, put them in a special online folder.
Generally speaking, make everything easily accessible. If you cannot organize your materials well, use an additional list that pinpoints the materials in each folder, or the categories you have used to set them apart.
7. Have a Back-Up System
If you are a non-fiction writer that uses the computer for organizing, researching and writing, always have a back-up system in place. The disadvantage with using technology is that the computer may die or crash. If you don’t back your documents up, you can lose the entire research in an instant.
Use programs such as Google Drive or Dropbox to store your research on an online platform. This will also allow you to access them anytime you want.
These are the seven crucial steps you must take when it comes to researching for your next piece. As a non-fiction writer, you must make sure that your writing is based on thorough research and of course, represents your writing skills at their best!
About the author:
Olivia is an independent journalist and passionate explorer. She likes to write about everything that can positively affect people’s life. When not searching for a new topic to write on, Olivia prefers to take a camera and enjoy the beauty of nature. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Did you know we host an annual Nonfiction Writers Conference? Check it out!