6

As a spinoff to this question: Incorporating research and background: How much is too much?

I'm writing a middle-grade fantasy novel with a historical fiction component based in Ancient Egypt. I'm doing enormous amounts of research on both the history and the religious aspects (it's based on the Exodus). A lot of people seem to think my research would be of interest to people and have suggested I consider a companion book and/or a blog.

Obviously I don't want to take away writing time for my novel. I have to finish it first. But the longer I wait with research notes, the more I forget the details. Writing everything down takes a while.

Has anyone done this or seen this done (especially not by hugely popular books/authors...I mean, let's not count A Song of Ice and Fire)? Is it just another time sink to slow down finishing my novel? Or is it worthwhile?

  • What are you doing with the research you're doing now? Are you writing it down at all? Or just keeping it in your head? I'm assuming you're doing some kind of note-taking, right? – Chris Sunami Mar 1 at 20:09
  • It's a combo. I have tons and tons of notes but I haven't been recording where they come from. For a blog, I'd need reference links and attributions. For a blog, that times 100. For a lot of the research into Biblical characters and events, once I came to a conclusion about what path I was choosing, I just wrote that down. I don't always have the "why" recorded. – Cyn Mar 1 at 20:39
  • 1
    Honestly, I think you might want to consider taking better (i.e. attributed) notes, even if it slows you down a little. I can't count the number of times I've wanted to find a reference that really influenced me and haven't been able to locate it again. – Chris Sunami Mar 1 at 20:42
  • Ha ha you're talking to someone who takes mountains of notes already. Yes, you're right. But I was soooo proud of myself for making decisions and moving on. It's like my house...I'm a borderline hoarder, and when I finally allow myself to throw or give something away, I'm proud (and my husband is happy). So imagine you just came in and told me "you really shouldn't toss that stuff, you might need it later." :-D – Cyn Mar 1 at 20:44
  • I should clarify...it's not that I don't have the sources written down. I do. And it's not that I don't say what I got from each source, mostly I do. It's that when I make a decision I don't document the path I took to get there, which is the interesting part (for Bible stuff anyway). Why did I decide to make Eleazar unmarried at the start of the Exodus even though the Torah says he's married with one child? That single question would make a great blog post (and it's one of the few I do have well documented and almost ready to go). – Cyn Mar 1 at 20:47
6

I think, done correctly, a blog could be a tremendous support to your book. Among other things, it could be a selling point for getting the book actually published (publishers like authors to have "platforms" these days). However, as you pointed out, a blog can be a big time-suck, and it needs to be updated at least once a week, or no one will ever read it.

My recommendation would be to go ahead and get a blog account --I strongly recommend wordpress (you can get a free basic account on wordpress.com if you don't have your own hosting). You don't necessarily have to publish any of the entries --you can use it as a useful note-organizing system, with the advantage of categories, tags and dated entries. But if you do get an entry that just needs a little tweak to be publishable, keep a note of it. Then, during the long horrible waiting periods while you're waiting for the book to find an agent or publisher or to come out, you can go back through and convert your notes to publishable entries. You could spend some concentrated time polishing several up at once, and schedule them in advance.

I've had blogs for a long time, and I've used them both as places to workshop new material that might be a book someday, and as an alternate place to publish material that was intended as a book but never sold. I haven't ever seen any huge popularity from any of my blogging, but it does raise your online profile, and it looks good in a query letter. I've even occasionally had people reach out to me because of it, and I once even had someone refer to a bit of my blogged writing in a major venue (the "generic parody" referenced in the opening paragraph).

As far as a companion book, that's really just a way to get double benefit out of your research after your novel is done. As I mentioned, you'll probably have a lot of downtime between finishing the book and seeing it in print.

  • I have a blog, though it's not particularly active. It's mostly recipes plus some genealogy. I also have unused blogs set up elsewhere My ISP has free Wordpress on to any domain you like (that they host), and I own 4 domains at the moment (one is my husband's comic and I do the website/blog for that). 5 if you count the nonprofit I'm on the board of and run the website for (badly out of date). – Cyn Mar 1 at 20:42
3

A companion book - it's way too early to think of that. There's no sense in writing a companion book when you haven't written the main book yet. A companion to what would it be? Once you've published your story, if it sells well, there might be a market for a companion book with additional information. Of course, by then you might be tired of Exodus, and eager to do something new instead.

A companion blog - you could do that now. It might even help generate interest in your upcoming book. I see one serious problem though: you have X hours a day for writing. If you spend Y hours writing your blog, you've only got (X - Y) left to write your novel. And the novel is what you want to write, right?

If writing the blog helps you write your novel in some way - helps you arrange your thoughts, get over a writing block, gives you some sort of encouragement - then go ahead and do it. Otherwise, your goal is the novel. Don't let yourself get so distracted from it that you don't actually finish the novel.

2

It's a personal decision. For me, I wouldn't.

I think your goal is to be a novel writer, not a non-fiction writer, not a research writer. Notes as you have them (or much less) is fine; at most I'd take less notes, but keep track of the final source that made your decision for you.

So you decided in Chapter 17, character Joseph, on X, because you read Y, around page 140-150. That way if you are in an edit round on Chapter 17 and want to revisit something, you can review your notes on Chapter 17: Aha, it is X. Now you have a clue about where to start on the backtrack, you don't waste time on the early non-productive part of the search. You read what made your decision, and can decide if that was weak justification, strong justification, or if you want to go further. If you make a change, record THAT in your notes on Chapter 17, because who knows if you will be back here in Chapter 17 a month from now!

Of course you can start this "ResearchResults" file now, and fill it in as you go. If you need to backtrack through old notes and rebuild them, do that as needed don't make a new project about it that interferes with your writing.

My advice is to be a novel writer, not a non-fiction writer, not a blogger. Entertain people through your fiction, and don't sap all the time you have to write fiction with reading, blogging (neither of which you get paid for), and the drudgery of writing a bibliography for a non-fiction reference book. You could have written more novels, and IMO that would be a lot more fun, and build your readership a lot more, and make you more money in the bargain.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.