As most of you know by now, my first two books were of the nonfiction genre. After a few years of working in print journalism and writing numerous research papers during my college years at Rochester before that, research was something that didn’t scare me. I mean, writing a book of any kind is a long process anyway, but when you’re writing nonfiction, there’s immense pressure to get your facts right. Clarified, solid facts are a must. With fiction, you can play around a bit. If you’re passionate about a topic and ready to write a book about it, here are some tips to help kick off the research process.
- Read Books and Talk to People: There are probably a few books out on the topic you’re exploring, so check them out. What has been covered by other authors? Identify a gap and try to address it. In fact, why not talk to potential readers to find out what they would like to know more about. For example, when I was gathering information for my first book, What Would I Tell Her @13, I spoke to mothers with young daughters and found out that they were trying to figure out how to address teen body image concerns.
- Search News Coverage: In nonfiction books, you can share observations and conclusions from recent studies. That involves searching scholarly journals and reliable websites — not Wikipedia. But what’s happening right now in the space that you are writing about? Search for trends in the news. Look for relevant news articles from sources such as the top newspapers and magazines covering that niche. Like when I was working on News Now, I found news articles about new and upcoming TV journalism programs in India. On Twitter, I found tweets criticising news reports, accusing them of bias. Hence, my book discussed those pertinent topics along with others.
- Interview Experts in the Field: Every nonfiction book requires quotes from experts. For a 1000 word feature article in a newspaper or magazine, three expert quotes maybe enough. In case of an entire book, you need many many more so you have to talk to as many psychologists, journalists, chocolate experts or whoever can give you valuable insights into your topic. For both my books, I spent time on the phone and e-mail, taking notes and learning so much as I interviewed a list of people I wanted to add value to the content in my book. Readers like to get their info from role models — not just news, text books and magazines.
- Be Organised: You need to collect your data in one place. Google Drive and Evernote are great options although I was old school when I wrote my books and kept everything in a notebook and a couple of documents that I emailed to myself. You don’t need anything fancy; just make sure it is all together and accessible from multiple places.
- Know When to Stop: Give yourself a deadline. Finish the research at that point. Some authors have trouble knowing when enough is enough. Pick and choose what you need and don’t feel guilty if you don’t include every bit in your manuscript.
Hope this helps. Good luck!