Research Does a Story Good

14 Dec

Okay, cats ‘n’ kittens, I know a bunch of you lot (including some of our own!) took part in NaNoWriMo this year, and are hopefully still plugging away at those books whether you hit 50,000 words or not.

One thing that can eat up a big ol’ chunk of your writing time is research. Sure, Google and Wikipedia are your friends, and they’re excellent starting points. But sometimes, you’ll want to dig a little deeper.

Got a character who’s allergic to bee stings about to piss off a hive? Better find out what anaphylactic shock is like before you get them all covered in bees.

Writing a Regency romance? You’ll need to know the fashions and dances and common phrases of the time period.

Does the heroine get chased through the streets of Paris? It’s time to get familiar with the arrondissements, n’est-ce pas?

And when you’re done with the writing (and rewriting, and re-rewriting), your research still isn’t done. You need to start shopping that bad cat around, and that means knowing your markets for short fiction, and what agents and publishers represent your genre for novel-length works.

I’m going to throw some links at you. Where do you go for your research? What sites have helped you out (or totally killed your wordcount for the day because you just. can’t. stop. clicking?)

    Fill in those plot holes! 

  • The Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection — I used this all the time when I was running games. I still have half a dozen maps all printed out and marked up with where the characters were and what shenanigans they were getting up to. Check out the extensive selection of historical maps if you’re looking for older borders and boundaries.
  • Google Maps — yeah, it’s pretty obvious, but damn is the Street View feature ever helpful.
  • Fodor’s Travel Guides — big-picture overviews of cities and countries around the world. They’re probably not going to tell you where you can get contraband goods at 3AM, but you can get an idea of neighborhoods and attractions that the locals might know.
  • WebMD — I’m sure there are other health info sites out there, but this one’s my default. Help me out!
  • Encyclopedia Mythica — My go-to reference for world mythology and folktales.
  • The Higgins Armory Sword Guild — Online study guides for their classes, including definitions and demonstrations. Check out the videos to see some swordwork in action!
  • Time and Date — Need to know the time difference between Boston and St. John’s? (It’s an hour and a half.) How about what day of the week it was on April 11th, 1899? (A Tuesday!) You can find it here. In addition to moon phases and eclipses and… yeah, okay, I’ve spent the last ten minutes playing with the calculators. /backs sloooowly away.

So, now that you’ve reasearched your heart out and written something awesome… what happens when you’re ready to sell it?

    Find a home for it! 

  • Absolute Write — An excellent writers’ resource. Their Bewares & Background Checks forum is the place to go if you have questions on an agent, magazine, website, or publisher. They have a ton of successful authors, illustrators, editors and agents participating on the boards as well, so be ready to have your head filled with good information.
  • Duotrope’s Digest — Helps you narrow down where to submit a story, estimates response times pretty accurately, and has a nifty submissions tracker.
  • Ralan’s Webstravaganza — Like Duotrope, helps you sift through the markets. Has a spec fic focus.
  • Query Shark — Janet Reid from Fine Print Literary Management takes query letters, chews ’em up, and spits ’em out. Not to be snarky. To help writers learn how to compose the kind of queries that’ll make agents go “OMG GIVE ME MOAR.”
  • Miss Snark — Miss Snark’s no longer blogging, but boy howdy is there some great information on getting an agent and publishing. Sift through the archives and fill your brainmeats with knowledge!
  • QueryTracker.net — When your query letter’s good and polished and no longer shark bait, search here for agents, publishers, average response times. Find out who’s representing your genre and how to submit.

Fill us in, writerly-types! Where do you go when you need to chase down some information?

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One Response to “Research Does a Story Good”

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  1. L’esprit d’escalier » Research Does a Story Good - December 15, 2010

    […] (Cross-posted over at Seven Deadly Divas.) […]

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