Thursday, March 11, 2010

From Footnoting to Final Draft.

Not surprising, even the most basic non-fiction title requires a fair amount of research. I’ve had to pull out 20-year-old memories of footnoting (Google APA style and you’ll get lots of hits for proper notation), and citing resources. The editor will need to verify your sources and fact check your research. Even fiction requires some degree of research, but that could be as simple as an afternoon of observing teenagers at an arcade. I might use some of my astronomy research for my novel. Anyone else have any tidbits about research for fiction?

I've found a wonderful website that helps me organize my resources. has a huge database of libraries and books. I usually type in some key words and start getting hits of books I want to use – I like to use the most recently published adult resources I can find – using other children’s books as resources is a no-no. I find the books I want to use – tag them in a list – and then export it into a bibliography. I can request the books I like from my local library – saves time and energy. Very cool.

Depending on the topic, you might reach out to experts in the field. You can footnote an email – just make sure you save it!

Word has a great footnoting tool – lots easier than it was “back in the day.” My 2000 word manuscripts often have upwards of 50-60 footnotes. Not sure if that’s excessive or not, but it is what it is. I like to make sure my sources are properly cited – Anything that isn’t commonly known should be cited.

Researching aside, the biggest difference I’ve found is my ability to generate word count. Three hours of dedicated writing fiction can sprout between 1500-2000 words for me. I’m lucky to get 200 words of non-fiction writing in the same amount of time. It’s mostly because I’m checking sources, footnoting, double checking sources, and trying to filter complex concepts into the grade level for which I’m writing.

It’s exasperating to spend hours on the project and only generate a couple hundred words, but it’s rewarding to “hit submit” and get the project done!


pauling said...

For the extensive research I did for my current novel, I typed the subject in on Amazon and then I'd see all the related books come up. Once I had a good book, I checked the book's bibliography to find more resources. And I ended up finding primary sources through reading.

I purchased some books, but also got out quite a few on interlibrary loan. But it's hard to read a 1,000 page textbook in 3 weeks - those I previewed through interlibrary loan and then purchased. But this was for fiction.

Kris said...

The only books I've purchased for my non-fiction have been "word choice" (for grade level) books. I use the library extensively -- and "renew" a lot! I also don't ever have time to read an entire textbook - I used the index. There are a lot of good internet resources as well, but you have to be careful with those -- no wikipedia! ;)