My Accidental Education [Skillshare]

I love learning new things. If going into business for myself isn’t enough proof, then I don’t know what else to tell you.

I never imagined teaching myself so many new things – things I never thought I’d be interested in. But when I quit my job, it opened up a lot of new doors. I’ve often wondered if I should go back to school and get my Master’s in something. Of course, I don’t have the money to go back to school. If I did, what would I go to school for?

I’d love to learn more photography, Photoshop, film and video editing. I’d love to learn coding – for video games and websites. I wouldn’t mind going back to school for more creative writing. I’d love to learn about marketing, social media, and general business things. There are so many other things too.

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What I Wanted To Be When I Grew Up

When I was in first grade, I had decided I was going to be a teacher – first grade, to be exact just like the teacher I had that year. As I got older, I decided to do preschool instead. Some of them – not all of them – are actually shorter than me and I always had more fun with that age group than older kids. That’s what I ended up doing. I was a preschool teacher for about six years.

Before that though, when I was ten, I had decided to be a writer as well. I figured I could be a teacher and a writer at the same time because… well, it’d be easy, right? Of course.

So, that’s what I did. For six years, I was a writer in the early morning, I chased toddlers during the day, and I babysat in the late afternoons, at night, and on the weekends.

When I finally realized how burnt out I was getting, I evaluated what I really wanted to do with my life. Between blogging, creative writing, babysitting, working a full-time job, and doing things for my church, I knew something needed to give. I realized I loved writing more and, while I decided to keep babysitting, I quit my job at the preschool.

Of course, writing isn’t black and white.

Research, Research, and More Research

Until I started really working on my blog and writing full time, I never knew how many things I could do. I could be a blogger, an author, a freelance content writer, editor, journalist, publicist, virtual assistant, and so many other things. So many doors opened up and I didn’t know what to do with any of them.

I wear many hats and have tried to do so many things. I’ve tested the waters. Some things I’ve decided to pursue, others not so much. No matter what I do I need to research it and teach myself how to do it and do it right.

Google is great as are the various websites you find through it. Pinterest is also cool as well, but I feel like a lot of the pins I find are successful bloggers saying, “I did it this way, so you should too.” Which, isn’t how I roll. I take everything into consideration and am all for swapping methods and techniques, but there’s no one thing that works for everything.

I Came Across CreativeLive & Skillshare

I found CreativeLive through NaNoWriMo. There was a package of certain courses for winners of one of the Camp NaNo sessions in 2018. I was able to pick a certain amount of courses to watch for free out of certain classes was hand-picked for NaNo winners. I watched them and they were good, but I haven’t gone back because the other courses are money. They’re not expensive, but not something I felt like putting my money toward.

So, I found Skillshare. It’s similar to CreativeLive, but Skillshare has a good chunk of free courses. You can sign up for a premium account and get access to all courses.

I joined Skillshare and was only taking the free courses. I wanted to see how useful they’d be and if I’d get anything out of them. Then Ari happened to make a blog post about Skillshare and she shared a link that allowed me, if I signed up, to get two months of a free trial of the premium courses.

Naturally, I took as many premium courses as I could in those two months.

I forgot to “cancel” it though and was surprised when my credit card bill came with an extra $99 charge on it. I kept it though. I enjoyed the premium courses and figured, I’m not going to go through the trouble of canceling it. I’ll actually use it. It wasn’t the money I had meant to spend at the time, but I think it’s worth it.

With that said, you’re more than welcome to get two free months of Skillshare on me.

What Does Skillshare Have?

Everything. There are four categories of classes – creative, business, technology, and lifestyle. Those categories have subcategories. For example, graphic design, writing, and photography are included in the creative section. You can learn about freelance, marketing, and fiances in the business section. There’s a lot more too.

Even if you want to learn something for fun and get a new hobby – they have craft classes – then Skillshare is great. I’ve been loving it and it’s been super helpful.

There are classes Skillshare runs themselves, some teachers are “professionals,” and other are entrepreneurs teaching classes in their own niche. Some are definitely more helpful than others, but they’re all good.

So, that’s my happy accident. I’ve done a lot of Googling and spent so many hours on Pinterest, but I’ve been enjoying Skillshare the most. Plus, a lot of the classes have PDFs you can print and look at as well for references, which is great.

Again, feel free to try it all for two months free. I don’t get anything out of it – no commission or anything – but I think, if you pay for a premium account after your two free months, then I get a free month. So, there’s no harm in giving it a try. But if you don’t like it or can’t afford it, just don’t forget to cancel before it renews!

Have you tried Skillshare, CreativeLive, or something similar? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Using Research As Your Novel Outline

I’ll be honest – there haven’t been too many people I’ve come across who outline before writing the first draft of their novel. Outlining isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to do in the world. I personally love it, but that’s a blog post for a different day.

Research, on the other hand, is something that people do quite often and at during multiple stages of the writing process. If I have an idea of what information I need to know, I always spend a good amount of time researching before writing. Using research as your novel outline is a great way to outline without “spoiling” the novel for yourself.

Using Research as Your Novel Outline | Creative writing | Blogging | Outlining a novel | novel writing | research for a novel | RachelPoli.com

A lot of research goes into novel writing. Despite it being fiction, we as writers try to make things as realistic as possible. We want it to be real for our readers. Researching is the way to do that and there are many different things we can research in outline form to set up for our first draft.

Setting & Time Period

Setting is easy and hard. If you’re writing about a place you’ve been to before, it comes somewhat easily. If you decide to base your novel in a foreign place unknown to you, then you need to research. This may include traveling to that place, jotting down ideas, taking pictures, and the like. I mean, why not make a vacation out of it?

Unless you were born in the 50s, you have no idea what it was like to live in the 50s. School was different back then, they dressed differently, and there are even different slang terms than we have now. This is research you need to do in order to make your characters authentic.

Characters

Speaking of characters, people were named differently back then as well. Certain names are more common in certain generations. Do you necessarily need to follow that? No, not really, but sometimes it’s helpful to know. We all have different “roles” as well. Yes, everyone should be treated equally, but maybe in your novel they’re not.

How To…

How many of you out there are writing about war or have frequent battle scenes? Do you know what it’s like to wield a sword? Do you know any fighting stances or techniques? Researching this before you write your novel will help the first draft go smoother when you get to those scenes. It’ll still need editing for sure, but less so in the long run.

Then there’s horseback riding, how to sew on a button, how to murder someone, and so much more. We can write about what we know and what we have experience with, but it’s more fun to write about what we don’t know and experience it first-hand through research.

So, whether you outline or not, doing a little bit of research beforehand is always a good way to go. Unless you want to completely wing and make stuff up… that’s cool too.

Do you research at all? If so, do you do some before the writing begins? Let me know in the comments below. Good luck! If you liked this post, please share it around!

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When Should You Conduct Research For Your Novel?

People always say to write what you know. And that’s great, but then your novel would be pretty limited, wouldn’t it?

I find writing to be a great opportunity to write about something you don’t know. Find something that interests you that you never pursued and look into it more.

For example, when I was younger, before I decided to be a teacher and realized I wanted to write, I dreamed of being a spy or a detective. I had those play spy kits with notepads and pretend handcuffs and glasses that you would see behind you–the whole nine yards.

And look at me now: I write mystery novels. I’ve studied the police exam to get a feel of what it’s like. I solve puzzles and riddles in mystery video games (one where I’m a defense lawyer). I have books where I study what it’s like to be a police officer or detective, looked up various ways to die and the consequences of murder, and much more.

Let me tell you, it’s not very glamorous.

But when do you conduct that research? Do you cram the information into your mind before you begin? Maybe you research a bit here and there in the moment as you write? Or maybe you just free write, bold scenes you’re unsure of and do the research part after you finish writing?

when-should-you-research

Here’s your answer: You can research anytime.

That’s it. The end. See you tomorrow.

Well, I did decide to start a post about this, so I guess I’ll elaborate…

Research before writing

There are two reasons you should research before you start writing your novel:

1. You’re a planner.
2. You have a decent list of topics you need to look into or else the first draft of your novel will make absolutely no sense.

When I first started my mystery novel way back when I decided to do the research after. I knew I had a lot to look into and instead of spending a few months trying to learn it all, I figured I would just have the research component be part of the editing process. Or, look small things up along the way.

I love to outline, so I made a list of things I didn’t know, things I would probably need to know or the sake of my novel. I listed them but didn’t bother to look into them right away. Needless the say, the first draft of my novel wasn’t very good, to say the least.

I’ve done research before writing a novel and let me tell you, it’s a lot of notes to dig through as you write. And it slows the actual writing part down a bit.

Research during writing

I’ll admit, I find this one to be the most effective. If you need to know certain tidbits here and there, a quick Google search in the middle of your writing isn’t so bad. If you have something large to expand on, then it may be easier to make a note of it and just go back to it in the editing process.

The perks of researching as you write are as follows:

1. It saves you a bit of time when editing.
2. It gives you a small break in the middle of writing.

While it saves you time with editing, I know you’re thinking that it doesn’t save you time writing at all. But, it gives you a break with the writing.

If you’re on a roll, bold what you don’t know, and move on. Keep writing if your imagination allows it. However, if you notice that your flow has slowed down and you keep thinking back to that one spot you’re unsure of, stop.

Researching in the middle of your writing will give your brain a quick break. It’ll help you figure out where to go next, based on your research, and you may even come up with new ideas.

Research after writing

So you’ve finished a novel and it doesn’t make any sense. You have a list of topics to research, big and small.

Well, go ahead and get started.

Doing your research when you finish the novel helps your editing process get underway as you expand on certain scenes and realize others may not work out as well now.

Then again, you may end you being in for some serious rewriting. Editing is always a long process and adding the research part will make it seem longer. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You should take your time with it after all.

In Conclusion…

Is researching part of the outlining process or the editing process? Who really knows?

In the end, it’s up to you, up to the novel, and is an in-the-moment kind of thing.

I personally research at any stage of the novel, but I’ll admit I mostly research during and at the end of writing the novel. When you research before you may not know all the information you actually need.

Plus, I’ve always enjoyed researching as long as it wasn’t for a paper for school.

When do you typically research for your novels? How do you go about it? Let me know in the comments below!

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Write What You Don’t Know (NaNoWriMo Prep Part 3)

Yesterday I explained why, in my opinion, writing what you know is good advice.

No one expects you to write complete nonfiction works of your life. No one expects you to base all of your fictional work on real life experiences.

You need a good balance between what you know and what you don’t know. I mean, let’s be honest here. If you’re writing fantasy, are you ever going to encounter a dragon? I’d say those chances are slim.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Prep: Write what you don't know

How do I write what I don’t know?

Research, research, research!

I was that kid in school who loved doing projects and essays that you needed to do research for.

Not mention that I’m a 90s kid so I grew up with the evolution of computers and technology. So any excuse to get me to be on the computer was good enough for me.

These days, the Internet is your best friend, though you have to wary of the types of websites you find. Sorry to say that not everything on the Internet is true.

Not even this blog as this is all my opinion. And that’s a fact.

But to be serious, there are many different ways to research.

How do I research?

Like I said, the Internet is a great one. As long as you find credible sources, you have a vast amount of information at your fingertips.

There are also books. The bookstore and the library are your friends. No one goes there as often as they should anymore. Even if you don’t have any research to do, just go in there and sniff a book or two. Better yet, buy a few.

Talk to people. Are you trying to research what it’s like to be a doctor? How to become a doctor? What they’re typical day is like? Talk to any doctors that you know. Ask to interview them. I babysit for a family and the kids’ father is in the Fire Academy. My main character is a detective, but I’ve been getting good insight on what the Police Academy is like. Fire and Police aren’t the same, but they run similar drills and are just as tough to get through.

Another form of research is (wait for it…) real life experiences.

Yes, I just did that.

Wait a minute!

Hold on, I’m still explaining.

I’m not telling you to do research on that hypothetical flat tire you got the other day. No, I’m telling you to research by hands-on experience.

For example, I have to research archery for my novel The Lost Girl. I’ve Googled archery and even looked up writing-related information about it through Pinterest. However, there’s only so much I can read about archery. There’s no feeling behind it.

I can explain how my protagonist holds her bow and pulls back the arrow, but I can’t describe how it feels to actually release the arrow. So, Kris is going to accompany me to an archery class. I’ll tell you all about that when the time comes.

But I’m sure you get my point now. Research is important and so is living. Everything counts and everything helps towards your writing.

Write down all your life experiences, good and bad. Find something that interests you and research it. It’s great material for your stories and you’ll learn something new.

Do you research a lot? What are your methods for researching? Or do you write more true-to-life type stories? Let me know in the comments!

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How To Implement a Crime When Writing a Mystery Novel

When something is easy, most people say that it’s just like “taking candy from a baby.” Of course taking candy from a young child is easy because they can’t really fight back. You run away, they cry. Nothing else can really get done about it.

But if you’re going to rob someone there needs to be a bit more planning to it than just grabbing it right under the person’s nose and running away.

And no, I’m not talking about stealing from people in real life because that would just be wrong. But if you’re going to have a robbery, or any crime, in your mystery novel then you need to know how to implement it.

How To Implement a crime when writing a mystery novel Rachel Poli

Research is important to any novel, any genre. However, there’s a lot of information that goes into writing mystery.

You have the law, the law enforcement, and all the many different kinds of crimes as well as what their consequences are.

The Law

Whether you’re following the law or breaking it, the law is still there. You can’t see it, you can’t hear it, but it is there.

If your characters do something illegal, someone is bound to find out. Someone is bound to catch up to them. They are bound to be punished for it.

Here is where the setting of your story really comes into play. Most mystery novels are based off actual cities and towns.

If your novel takes place in Texas, then you need to know the laws specific to Texas. Each state is different, each country is different.

If you don’t know the laws of where you live, then Google is your friend. As well as your library or Town Hall.

Law Enforcement

What exactly does the chief of police do? What exactly do the coroners do with the dead bodies behind those four walls? How do detectives investigate? How do prosecutors and defense attorneys figure out their information? Do we even need to go to court? Can we go straight to jail?

I hate to break it to you, but you can’t just have a character point to another character and say, “He did it!” Then the other guy hangs his head sadly and says, “Well, you got me…”

If that was the case, I’m pretty sure crime would be non-existent at this point.

Crimes

When I was writing George Florence I didn’t bother to do any research about actually killing someone because I just wanted to get the first draft written, the idea out of my head.

So during the editing process, I researched strangulation. I have to say that I learned quite a lot. I probably learned more information than I needed to know.

However, I very quickly learned that I wrote the entire scene wrong. Strangling someone is not as simple as choking someone and not allowing them to breath. I learned a lot about it from a medical standpoint as well as the anatomy of it all.

I haven’t rewritten the scene yet, but I’m sure it’ll be much better and way more accurate than before.

The Research

As stated earlier, Google and the library are your friends. Well, guess what? So am I!

So here are a few resources I’ve found along the way that I really think are great and I hope you do too.

Books

1. Book of Poisons: A Guide for Writers by Serita Stevens
2. Forensics: A Guide for Writers by D.P. Lyle
3. Police Procedure & Investigation: A Guide for Writers by Lee Lofland
4. Now Write! Mysteries by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson

Of course, read all the mystery novels you can find and learn from those. Even true crime novels would have a lot of information.

Websites

1. Writing World — This website is packed with writing information in general, but here’s the mystery section.
2. Research Resources for Mystery and Crime Writers — This article has a ton of other links to great research sites.
3. Research for Mystery Novels — This article is from Mystery Month last year. I was looking for the websites I usually go on and when I Googled something, this post was on the first page. I decided to put it on the list mostly because I was impressed and proud that out of 27 millions results, one of my articles was number six.

I thought I had more websites than that, but I’ll add to it as I find more. Apparently I use books for most of my research. Look at me going old school instead of asking Google everything!

How do you research for your mystery cases or your other novels?

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