How do you know when you’ve done enough research? We'll look at Why & When first.
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Your Editor This Week:
Elfin Dragon - contest hunting
Table of contents
1 About The newsletter & A Note from Your Editor
2 Can You Research Too Much? Vol. 1
3 Ask & Answer
4 Group Hosted Activities
5 Editor's Picks for WDC Hosted Activities & Contests
About The Newsletter & A Note From Your Editor
I know you’ve probably read the title of this newsletter and thought, “Another newsletter on research?”
But, we’re going to approach research in a slightly different way. I know when I research, sometimes I wonder if I’m doing too much or not enough for the project I’m working on. That is what we’re going to focus on. How do you know when you’ve done enough research? We’ll break it down and have plenty of examples in the process. Hopefully we’ll learn and have fun in the process.
Can You Research Too Much?, Vol. 1
The answer to this question is YES, you can do too much. The solution is to do just enough to get what you need, and we’re going to try and focus on precisely that.
The first thing you want to do for any piece of writing is to know why you’re writing and to whom you’re writing for. Viv gives us a great example from her newsletter a couple weeks ago…
From Viv’s Newsletter, “For Authors: The 8 C’s of Writing” -
Completeness: Remember the W’s of writing: Who, Where, What, Why, Where, When and How? Before you start writing, you should know where you want to go, how you plan to get there, why you want to write in the first place, and why anyone else (e.g. potential readers) would want to follow you. You want to cover everything needed for readers to understand what you mean.
This is a good place to start. And we’ll use one of my short stories as an example, which was written from a prompt on “Writer’s Cramp” "The Writer's Cramp" .
The prompt: A Pocket Watch – the story must be written in the POV of the pocket watch over three generations of people.
Most here at WDC know "The Writer's Cramp" stories must be 1,000 words or less. However, for me, the prompt provided an idea for a short story of about 1,500 words. Why? Inevitably because of the idea, research and the fact the story had to cover three generations.
For reference – the story is: "The Traveling Pocket Watch"
How to Start Your Research:
If we look at the W’s of writing to help us focus our research, there are certain questions which will help us know where to look for information and also narrow our focus.
Think of yourself as the pocket watch, what questions would you ask yourself? Perhaps some of the questions you would be asking yourself are:
1. WHY was I made?a. (sometimes depending upon what you’re researching How & What questions can be interchangeable or synonymous with each other)
2. WHEN was I made?
a. (Both Why & When can be very important, or only one. You can determine which once you begin your research and start writing)
3. WHO made me? And WHO would most likely be using me? (Notice there are two who’s in this question.)
4. HOW would I be used?
5. WHAT would I be used for?
6. The last question of WHERE, can often be your choice as the writer. It depends upon if you want the item (the pocket watch in this case) to be placed in its origin of making, or in its origin of delivery. But you don’t want to leave the question out when doing your research, it can be a crucial one.Once you have these questions answered you can then figure out the best way to begin researching for your short story.
Today we’ll focus on the first two questions.
1. Why was I made?
Wikipedia.com or any general search of “why railroad pocket watches were made?” will give you the answer to this question. Remember when doing any type of research to be as specific as possible. This will increase your chance of finding exactly what you want without having to jump all over the net. Also, try to verify your information from at least two sources. Wikipedia is fine, but it’s a public source (as are many on the web). So look for at least one, or two, more sources to verify you’ve gotten the correct answer. Also consider your research vessel, such as Google, Bing, Microsoft – These are just a few ways to find what you’re looking for. Mine is through Bing, but I’m sure you may have your favorite.
In this case of why the watches were made, there were train accidents linked to inaccurate watches, and the one which caused action from the American Railway Association was a head on collision which occurred on April 18, 1991 on the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway. An investigation of the timing of the trains was requested and by 1893 a strict standard was in place for all railways, and standard watches were created for that purpose.
2. When was I made?
Wikipedia can also answer this question easily. But, again, find other resources which verify your answer.
As we look back at the Why question we see the investigation of the timing of trains which was requested, and that by 1893 a strict standard of timing regulated the railways. By looking a bit further we can find that the Ball Watch Co. was the company put in charge of the investigation and eventually became one of two major companies manufacturing official railroad pocket watches for railways across the country beginning in 1893.
We now have our first when. Why did I say first? Remember, the watch must travel through three generations, and 1893 is only the beginning of the watch’s life. We now need to figure out where (or when) the generational transitions will occur.
3. Added When research:
Since the pocket watch is moving through time, we need to know when the watch will be changing hands. We do this by researching the average life span of people. Each generation will have their own average life span. And during each life span you’ll need to know if there are any special events which happen. You can then decide if you want to include these events in your story as the watch travels with each generation.
If you look at my story you’ll see I chose to use historical wars, with the exception of the “World’s Fair”, as landmarks in the story to mark “when” the watch was in history. When writing a generational piece like this you need to find a way to be able to mark time passing in some way so your reader will know where in time your character is. Using landmarks such as this can be a good way to bring your readers closer to the character(s) you’re writing about.
Something to Remember
Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away with researching information like this. As you begin to find out about how long people lived, and what sort of events happened during their life spans, you can find yourself clicking through numerous sites. Remember this adage, “Get what you need and get out.” If you’re interested in finding out more you can always bookmark the site and go back to it later. But for the purpose of writing you want to keep your research as simple as possible. If you feel you need more, go for it. But don’t do more than you need.
Ask & Answer:
I would love to hear from you :
Is there something which caught your eye in this newsletter?
Please make or send a comment to the editor and it will be answered in the next ROF - Newsletter. And thank you for reading.
Group Hosted Activities
Editor's Picks for WDC Hosted Activities & Contests
There are so many good things going on here in WDC I just thought I’d put a few of my own favorites up for your viewing. If you’d like to take a closer look at what’s going on, just go to the left side of your screen in the second block and put your cursor on “Things to Do & Read”. Then just choose either “Activities” or “Contests” and you can choose from there.