1. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    How do you organize your research?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by BFGuru, Aug 17, 2014.

    Working on two historic fictions, and now that I'm finally delving into my characters and plot, the research is becoming more important. I'm at a loss at how to keep it all straight. How to store it and all that happy jazz.

    Also...starting to forget character names. I think I need a family tree or something LOL
     
  2. molliemoogle
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    molliemoogle Member

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    I'm a huge fan of folders, sub-folders, and even more sub-sub folders.
    Online research: I'll bookmark the page and organise by folder (Writing=>Roman Culture=>Weapons, or Writing=>Tokyo=>Yakuza=>Activities=>Illegal Drugs). I also make a back-up of the page, doing a copy/paste jobbie into Notepad and save that. Each webpage has its own text file.

    Library research: I make a note of the book, author, page number, and paragraph. Make a hard copy and scribble on it, then scan to PDF.

    And truthfully, I'm quite shameless about getting and using ebooks.

    I keep everything in either the novel's Scrivener file or I open a new Evernote note and copy all the details in there.


    For characters, I use relationship charts similar to this one: http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2012/031/7/9/795791ae0e85db44ca3ebb98386f59a4-d4o7osa.png except I also include what the character thinks of himself.

    HTH.
     
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  3. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    I generally don't store my research but when it comes to characters I have a word document detailing their names, physical attributes ( I tend to mix up things like eye colour) and a brief note on who the character is to keep all the minor characters straight.
     
  4. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    File Cabinet and notebooks likes of notebooks.
     
  5. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    Hi OP.

    After a lot of research I chose to use Scrivener. However I have no connection with them and am not evangelising here. Just commenting on your Q.
    One thing it is great at, for me, is research and character notes. It keeps a separate section for research documents, and all kinds of files such as pdf, txt, images and web pages can be dragged and dropped into the research where it is backed up regularly. In my case on to Dropbox.
    There is also a characters section and I manage them myself through keywords.
     
  6. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Yes, do the family tree! I do this and it's a great way of making sure everyone's the right age!

    I have picture and text files on the lappy, boxes of papers and a journal of notes. I did start listing certain web pages as favourites but they kept disappearing so now I jot everything down. I also have a couple of textbooks on stuff.
     
  7. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    I am new to writing, almost finished my first book, but not to all kinds of writing and business projects. So I am cautious to give advice on the writing 'method'.

    However I would always be cautious about excessive detail in the planning. Some detail is good ... but it is very easy to sub consciously devote too much to the detail in the planning as an unintended act of procrastination :)
     
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  8. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    I'm old school and use old notebooks. But for visual cues I like to use pinterest.
     
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  9. HopingAgain
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    HopingAgain Member

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    Evernote. You can save entire websites, or just pieces of them, or you can just type your own notes. They can have searchable tags applied.

    @molliemoogle That's a really cool table. Thanks for that idea!
     
  10. Christine Ralston
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    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    I use a program called Scrivener. It allows you to divide everything into chapter (scenes, if you want) folders and allows you to include web links with your research folders.
     
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  11. KeriLynn
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    KeriLynn Member

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    Normally I do it by relevance. Like if I know for sure I'll use it and I know it's relevant then it goes into one folder. If it's something that may be useful or if I'm unsure then it goes into a second folder. If it's more of a backup plan research then it goes in a third folder.
     
  12. Teviya Abramson
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    Teviya Abramson Member

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    I've been writing for years and years (almost since I learned how in elementary school!) but have only recently started really getting serious about research and how to organize it.

    I used to just bookmark webpages on my internet browser, or jot down notes on legal pads. Now I use Microsoft OneNote, which is AMAZING. It's really easy to organize, and takes all of the best parts of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint and puts them right where you need them. I can copy/paste pictures and scans, I can even draw in it (I have a Surface tablet). I use Powerpoint to do simple floorplans and maps, as well as trees and flowcharts. I still do a lot of bookmarking and scribbling, but not nearly as much now (old habits die hard!).
     
  13. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use this:
    http://zim-wiki.org/

    Basically it lets me create a Wiki or website that contains all the details and lets you hyperlink them together very easily.
     
  14. Crawl
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    Crawl Member

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    I use a simple Google Drive Spreadsheet to note everything using only 3 columns: web site, link, comment.
     
  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    You don't need specialist writing software to organise research on your computer. All you need is a system that can create documents and put them into folders. Then put folders into folders.

    Be careful to name each document and folder—preferably with a date if you make changes. Just pretend you have a metal filing cabinet with cardboard folders in it. What would you name the folders so you could easily find the contents? And if you put paper documents into the folders, wouldn't you date them and organise them by type?

    It's really just a matter of organising stuff the way that works best for you, and keeping the information up to date. It's no different working on a computer, from using a physical library and physical folders. That will take discipline, not only to update and throw away stuff that isn't necessary any more, but you need an organised brain to put things into files and folders that make sense to you.

    And most importantly ...make sure you back up your research material. On SEVERAL different kinds of media. A hard disk. Flash drives. (Notice the plural here.) Dropbox, email to yourself, or other online forms of storage ...but do NOT rely on these online forms of storage alone. If your internet connection goes down (as mine has just been doing over the past 2 months), or the provider suddenly changes requirements or goes bust, you've instantly lost access to all your stuff.

    And make a paper copy as well, whenever you can.

    Okay, this all sounds paranoid to somebody who has not lost their work. To somebody who HAS lost work—even portions of their work—these precautions make perfect sense! Computers have made writing and research much easier than it used to be, but computers come with their own set of problems and hazards. Make sure you minimise these hazards.
     
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  16. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Sound advice all around. I'll echo what others said with my own advice: Don't get so bogged down with the research that you forget to actually write. There are areas that don't require extensive research. For example, if you're writing a romance piece set in Ancient Rome, then you're likely not going to bother with Roman military tactics. Research what will best serve your story.
     
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  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's sound advice to some extent, especially the notion that simply amassing information is no substitute for actually writing. But Roman military tactics might well impact on your romance, if your romantic lead is a soldier, for example. Or the female has to deal with soldiers. In a society where military activity was so prominent, it's difficult to imagine somebody living entirely outside it. The military impacted on the senate. The military bought goods that non-military people produced, regulated life that affected everybody. The more you know about a society as a whole—even the details you will leave out of your story—the better your writing will become. Why? Because you have opened your eyes to what life was really like 'back then' and you can ground your characters and story much more authentically. One thing leads to another when you're building fiction, doesn't it?

    Of course if you don't care how authentic your details are, you can do a bit of non-comprehensive research and wing it. However, what it interesting about research for writing is that everything you learn CAN spark new story ideas. Knowledge doesn't become a burden to a writer. That old adage 'write what you know?' Research increases 'what you know' and gives you more to work with.

    It's easy to go into writing about the American west in history, laden with prejudices and misconceptions you picked up watching John Wayne movies. And lo and behold ...so much of that John Wayne stuff was skewed! Even the shirts those guys wore. "Cowboys" in the 19th century didn't wear shirts that opened up like a jacket and buttoned all the way down—like modern-day 'western' shirts do. Instead, 19th century cowboys wore smock-like shirts that only opened at the neck and went on over the head. And that opens up new avenues of thought when it comes to creating their 'outfit.' You discover that no, not everybody went around packing a pistol either. In fact, many frontier towns actually banned carrying weapons. And folks were encouraged to 'fit in,' and to stop living a freewheeling life and start contributing to collective society.

    You learn that so much of what many people wanted from their lives when they moved west was the kind of stuff they left behind. They couldn't wait to establish 'civilisation.' They weren't looking for open country, freedom, the last frontier, etc. What they wanted was more or less what they left behind. They wanted opera houses, bookshops, schools, restaurants, nice hotels, roller skating rinks, symphony orchestras, train stations, comfortable houses, etc. They wanted to celebrate holidays in a collective spirit, such as Christmas and the Fourth of July. All this stuff is fodder for fiction.

    I believe that you can never do too much research ...as long as you are also actually writing as well. But as the OP's post indicates, you need a way to organise your research so you can easily access it when you need to. Organising research is not a waste of time. What is a waste of time is spending days rifling through stacks of paper and thumbing through books and re-reading all your online bookmarks looking for that important date you KNOW is there ...somewhere ...because you remember reading it ...somewhere....
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2015
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  18. LOLeah
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    LOLeah New Member

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    I am in the very early stages of my book, a historical fiction/fantasy. I can already tell that I have my work cut out for me with all of the research that needs done before I can even think about starting to write my story. So far my idea for cataloging everything I am learning that I will need is to separate my research into subjects. Because it's a period piece in an unfamiliar place I will need folders for everything from geography to clothes. I think this will make it easy to refer back to what I need as I need it.
     

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