Historical research versus scifi-fantasy research is essentially the difference in topics. There are those who would argue that these genres require far different executions of research to accomplish them. A lot of the chit-chat is posturing to assure that one’s genre is held in higher esteem than the others. The tribalism of human behavior is at the root of a lot of differences.
When I undertake research efforts, I come from a heavy science background. My entire education up to my second year of university was geared toward these studies. Certainly, I was exposed to history, English and other topics. Still, the scientific theory of investigation is a solid plan in which to do research. Does it all apply? Not entirely. You won’t literally measure the ingredients. Instead, you take a non-physical measurement of just how much of each piece should be applied to create the perfect formula.
So too, science writing requires the skills of theoretical thinking which both history and writing can teach. But, don’t forget art and other subjects, which can equally inform.
The thing is, all the subjects of scholarly study offer a stone for the wall you’re planning to build. Don’t discard any of them, even if you can’t immediately see how they each fit. They are your tools and materials.
A reader recently asked, was researching your old books easier or harder than researching the new trilogy? It’s an interesting question for other readers to hear the answer to. It can give a few insights on the work and the author.
Blue Honor has been the hardest thing I ever wrote thus far. That was due more to learning to craft like a professional, the rejection of the work before final publication, and struggling to find a good editor to help me turn it into the best book possible. And, the research wasn’t quite done until 2015 when I released the 2nd edition. That edition was produced with an amazing editor, and my final ideas on the text. We combed out the tangles, strengthened the characters and now it rests in its final state. Any further editions will only require any grammar alterations that were missed in that go around (there are always these) and those that come with the change of time. A publisher in the future may change words for others they prefer. That took from 1997 until 2015 to accomplish.
Blue taught me a great deal about writing. I laughingly say its the one I want to stab and burn. Many negative memories haunt the history of that book’s creation. Looking back, the only thing I would change is trying to get from start to finish more quickly, if that was at all possible.
The next book, OP-DEC: Operation Deceit benefited immensely from everything I learned on writing Blue Honor. Thus, so did the trilogy. Each time I set down to work on a book, it can be agonizing at times, worrying that I will repeat old mistakes, or not be able to complete the project. However, each work benefits from the last and I know my writing has improved. Back when I was seeking placement for Blue Honor, an editor at Penguin Books told my then agent to keep her eye on me. I was the real deal. This was when I needed a lot of work to hone my craft. Years later, published and loving it, I have enough confidence to say I am someone to pay attention to. That makes me pretty proud.
What fed that? Not only learning to craft but learning to think and research about the topics of which I’m writing. To answer the reader question, I honestly think the research end has gotten easier, because I know what to do to get that work done effectively. I have a process in place. The research itself is never easy. For those who endeavor to undertake such projects without having had some guidance (taken university level coursework) face a very uphill battle. I advise those who want to write, who are avoiding going to school to stop avoiding it. In the least, take MOOCs (Massive Online Open Coursework) with great schools. Many are free or cheap. You don’t have to hand anything in, but if you do the assignments, you can learn a lot. You just won’t have the feedback in many cases, as you’re not required to hand in assignments and have them critiqued. That said, writing is one of those careers that benefits from a degree.
Keep reading and writing, and send me those questions. Don’t forget to share articles you enjoy with your friends and subscribe to the blog to get a notice of new posts once a week.