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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How To Create a Timeline for Your Novel

Maybe you created a brand new world and need to give background on its history. Or maybe your novel switches back and forth between the past and the present to get your plot across. Maybe, like me, you have a string of crimes to follow.

No matter what genre you’re writing in if you’re writing a series chances are you’re going to need a timeline of events.

how to create a timeline for your novel rachel poli

There are many different ways to create a timeline for your novel. Everyone works in different ways at different paces, so some of these ideas may work better than others.

1. Excel Spreadsheet

I think using a spreadsheet would be easy enough, well organized, and easy on the eyes. You can create a graph-like timeline using the columns and rows. List your dates in a column and then include what happens on each date in the rows.

You could also list the dates in the first column and list the characters in the first row. Then you match up the character to the date and write in what happens to them.

2. Word Document

This is similar to the spreadsheet, just a little less organized. Just create a long list of dates in chronological order and write in what happens on those days.

Sounds simple enough and it’d be easy to add in dates in the middle in case you forget something.

3. Calendar

Get a planner or download/create a calendar template on the computer and fill in the dates as needed. If your novel takes place from May to December, then only create a calendar for those months.

4. Index cards

Make an index card for each date and then string them together or tack them together on a bulletin board. This would be a lot of work, but it will look cool at the end–especially if you decide to string them together in order.

5. Poster

Create a cool-looking timeline just like in your old history textbooks with the horizontal line and the dates sticking out of it. If you’re like me, use pretty colors to highlight significant dates.

I wish I had a picture of my poster to show you, but I have yet to finish my timeline. Math is my arch nemesis.

That I spent my weekend playing video games.

How do you keep track of the dates and events in your novel?

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So I Had A Post For Today…

I scheduled a post for today way back at the beginning of the month. Except I never wrote it.

I never wrote it because I never finished what I needed to do for my novel in order to write this post.

So I have moved this post to be uploaded on Monday, with some hope that the weekend will allow me some extra time to make it through this little mini-project on my novel and I’ll be able to talk about it on here, my blog.

But I’ll give you a sneak peek, anyway because I really don’t have anything else semi-intelligent to say.

I’ve been slowly working on my detective series, Detective Florence. Notice I said series, not novel.

Sure, I’ve been working on the first novel since November 2013 and I’ve made a lot of changes to it since then. But there’s just so much information that goes into the first novel and I have so many ideas for the novels to come.

You know how when you finished reading the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, you most likely said to yourself, “Wow, Rowling had this all planned from the very beginning!”

I swear she must have thought of the series as a whole and not just novel-by-novel. Or she must have had some idea anyway… I do remember when the fourth novel came out Rowling was interviewed and said she needed to change something in that novel because she noticed a huge plot hole.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been looking at Detective Florence as a whole, not novel by novel. Sure, I’m still sending bits and pieces of the novel to my writer’s group, so I am I mainly focused on the first installment.

But when you have cases that date back to previous cases and people that were connected to cases in the past, I figured I needed to map out all the dates for all the cases I have planned… It’s a lot more work than you would think.

If you know me, then you know math and I don’t get along very well. I’ve already messed it all up twice before finding dates that made sense with one another. George aged five years, but that’s alright I guess… We’ll see how it all works out.

But more on that later.

When you write a series, do you look at it as a whole or just book-by-book?

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How To Organize Your Notes

Do you have too much information to keep track of for your novel?

Are all your notes weighing you down?

Do you have index cards, post-it notes, and loose paper flying free all over the place?

Well, this post can help! (I think.)

how to organize your notes rachel poli

I started writing George Florence in November 2013. Since then I’ve edited two drafts. Then I re-wrote the whole novel, completely changing the dynamic of it. I am currently on the second draft of that version.

So I tell people I’m on the second draft, but it’s technically the fourth draft. The information is the same, the plot is the same, the cases are the same.

Yet every time I’ve edited the draft, I’ve looked at pacing, dialogue, character development, and that kind of stuff. I’ve looked at plot, but never really paid any attention to whether or not my information was correct.

Yes, this is fiction, but I need to throw a little bit of reality in there. It’s not a fantasy world, so I can’t just make up news laws as I go along.

It’s a lot of information and since this novel has been on paper since late 2013 (it’s been in my head much longer than that), I have my fair share of notes piled up.

There are a number of ways you can organize your notes.

1. An accordion folder

I use a 13-pocket accordion folder for each of my novels. One pocket for each draft. It gets big and bulky, but it keeps my novels away from each other and is easy for me to organize my drafts.

Depending on how many drafts of the novel I have, I use the back pockets for my notes as well. I toss index cards in there as well as a notebook or two. It keeps everything contained and the folder closes with a rope so nothing will ever fall out.

2. Notebooks

This is an obvious one. A notebook is made of paper and that where you write your notes. Duh.

If you use a notebook all the paper is together and contained by the binding. Better yet, you can get a five-subject notebook. The more paper for notes, the better. Plus, if you ever jot something down quickly on an index card or the like, most multi-subject notebooks have a built-in pocket folder. So easy enough.

3. Filing cabinet

I have a filing cabinet where I keep all my novels. Of course, you can use it to keep your research and notes for each novel.

I’m sure you’ve researched something for one novel and needed to know the same information for another novel. Why not have your own Google system in a cabinet? Then if you need to know something, you can ask yourself.

4. Your computer

Let’s be honest, most of us keep notes and research on our computer instead of printing it out or handwriting it.

If you research on the Internet, you can easily just bookmark a page or copy down the link to the website you found on a Word Document and go back to it later. It’s faster to type notes than it is to hand write them and you can get it anywhere at anytime. If you save it to Dropbox or your e-mail, you can check your notes on your phone or tablet when you’re not home.

Technology is wonderful.

What are some ways your organize your notes for your novels?

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How To Read Your Novel Notes

If you read my update post about my writing goals as well as my May Goals, you’ll know that I’m trying to get some more work down on my detective novel, George Florence.

Of course, in order to get any work done on this novel I need to go through all my notes, drafts, and research.

This has been a slow process.

how to read through your notes rachel poli

If you follow me on Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen me tweeting now and again about my attempt at organizing everything I have for my novel.

I have notes, case ideas, evidence lists, research, timeline notes, feedback from my writer’s group (multiple feedback as I submit 20 pages a month), plus previous drafts I have edited myself. I can’t stress enough how overwhelming it all looks when it’s laid out together.

Before I do anything, I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts. But in order to do that, you need to be able to read your own notes.

There’s really no easy way to go through your novel notes. Not when you’ve been working on this specific novel for almost three years.

Thoughts while reading your notes:

1. “Different strangulation techniques…” Boy, I hope no one finds my research.
2. “3,000 bucks for an apartment?! Are you kidding me…?”
3. What does this mean?
4. What was I thinking when I wrote this?
5. What is this supposed to go to…?
6. Was this an idea for this novel or something else?
7. Look at all the research I have done! And I still haven’t made a dent…

Some notes I was able to make sense of. Others, not so much.

Then there was dialogue I created between George and Lilah that were too funny, but have yet to make it into the books. I know one is for a later book, but I have no idea where I’m going to fit the other conversation.

For example…

George: Why do they always look like zombies…?
Lilah: Well, they just killed someone! I would act like a zombie too being like, “Oh, my God! What did I just do…?” Unless I was super crazy and then I would be like, “Ha ha, look at what I just did!”

George (to Lilah): I bet you were the type of kid that poked dead things with a stick, huh?

This post was titled “How To Read Your Novel Notes,” wasn’t it? I guess that’s a bit misleading. Then again, I don’t really know how to go through my notes. I sifted through them wondering what to do with them and then eventually shoved them back into my notebook.

So I guess I wasn’t very helpful.

Have you ever had just too many ideas for a novel that you didn’t know what to do with them? Any notes you thought were funny or didn’t remember writing?

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How To Research Effectively

No matter what genre you’re writing in–non-fiction, history, mystery, etc.–you need to do research.

The research can be something simple. Can’t remember what those metal things are called on the tires of your car? Maybe you need to know about different kinds of cars, what pricing they go for, and more.

The research can be something a little more difficult. What time period was the Civil War fought? How were wars fought back then? What kinds of weapons were used?

Unless you’ve created an entirely brand new world all your own, you should have some factual evidence in your stories, fiction or not. Just every day common knowledge.

So, how exactly do you find out about all theses facts? You conduct research.

How to research rachel poli writing

1. The Internet.

You can find just about anything on the Internet these days and it’s probably one of the most common ways to research anything. People do a quick Google search and that’s that. YouTube is helpful as well. Though, you must beware. Not everything on the Internet is true.

2. Books.

The library is your friend. Seriously. They have books on and about everything you could imagine. They normally have a reference desk as well as computers.

3. Think.

Your brain can hold a lot of information. Everything you’ve learned from school and other people, you can write about. You already have common knowledge of certain things. Incorporate those into your story if you can or want.

4. Talk to people.

If you don’t know something, maybe someone else does. Ask them. I’m sure they’d love to help. If you’re writing a court scene in your novel and your uncle is a lawyer, talk to him about it.

5. Observe around you.

Need information on a place? Go there and take notes. Even if you don’t need the information, take notes while on vacation or going somewhere new anyway. You might need it later. Observe the people around you where ever you are. Use your five senses. There’s nothing more natural than first-hand research.

How do you research for your novels? What kind of research do you have to do?

You might also like:
Inspiration Station: Research
Inspiration Station: 6 Ways to Find Ideas

Inspiration Station: Research

IS Research

Some people say “write what you know” and others say “write what you don’t know.” Well, which is it?

Depending on your genre and the amount of common sense you have, I think you should use your own judgement with that one.

I’ll use myself as an example (that means I’m writing about “what I know”).

In the past month I’ve been working on two novels. Both novels are the first book in a series. One novel, Hunter, is fantasy. The other, George Florence, is mystery.

Big genre difference, right?

Exactly. So I need to research different things for each novel.

As I write, I use the sticky notes app on my laptop and keep a list of editing notes; things I need to look up, chapters I feel are stupid and need to be taken out or changed, etc.

I keep this list because the point of the first draft is to get the idea down on paper.

With that being said, if I come across something I don’t know or something that I believe is inaccurate, I put it in bold. I make it up and bold it so that when I read through the draft I remember that I need to fix it.

Those “fixes” need research. And as I said before, each genre is different.

For Hunter, I kept a list that includes:

–Research all mutant powers: technical terms, what they do and how they work, etc. (including teleportation, electricity, flying, animal shape shifting…)
–Research tasers
–Research gunshots to various areas of the body

For George Florence, I kept a list that includes:

–Research apartment buildings; rent, leases, how big they typically are, etc.
–Research fees for hiring private detectives
–Look up costs of different wedding rings
–Research strangulation

I don’t know about any of these things. I’ve never encountered a mutant or a taser, and I’ve never lived in an apartment or proposed to anyone. So naturally, I need to do some research at some point if I want my novels to make sense.

The funny thing is that some research will help with other novels. At some point I’m sure I’m going to need to know all about gunshot wounds for George Florence.

So whatever you research, you should take notes or bookmark the website. However when you research you should find some way to remember it or at least be able to go back and look at it.

One website I love looking at for research is called The Writing Cafe, which is on Tumblr. People ask questions directly to the person (or people) who run the site. They also reblog a lot from other Tumblrs and like to list websites for specific topics, which is very helpful because then you have an unlimited amount of knowledge at your fingertips. All you have to do is look through the sites.

I also love Pinterest. You can find anything on there. Some pictures lead to super helpful websites. Others… Not so much. But it doesn’t hurt to look.

Of course, there’s also Google and Siri, but I guess you could also go to a library every once in a while and look it up yourself.

Inspiration Station: Research For Mystery Novels

Research for Mystery Novels

We all enjoy the mystery genre whether it’s reading a book or watching a TV show. We love to play detective and figure out who the culprit is. We love piecing the clues together. We especially love trying to figure it out before the protagonist does.

However, when you’re writing a mystery novel you need to play from all angles. You’re the victim, you’re the detective, and you’re the culprit. You’re every witness and every suspect. You should know the beginning, the middle, and the end when going into the mystery. You lay out all the clues for yourself and then start searching for them right after.

But how exactly can you have all this knowledge?

Well, you watch plenty of TV mystery shows, don’t you? You know, like Psych, where you follow a hyper-observant man with no job and no education. Yet, he’s still able to solve crimes much better than the police station.

What about Chuck? Or Burn Notice? I’m sure there’s some truth to those shows… Right?

Even some mystery novels can bend the truth a little because… Well, they’re fictional. So how can you do effective research for the mystery genre?

True Crime:

There are some books out there with their own genre called True Crime. These books are non-fiction based upon real life history events. They will help you learn about police investigation, how criminals think, and the many different kinds of crimes that can occur.

I’m also sure there are biographies and memoirs about certain criminals and certain detectives. One could learn a lot from that as well.

Writers Guides:

There’s a series I enjoy reading by Lee Lofland. He worked in law enforcement for a long time and now he writes guides for writers on police investigation. There’s Police Procedure & Investigation, Forensics, and Book of Poisons. I have read and reviewed Police Procedure & Investigation on my blog. I own the other two books, but have yet to read them.

The books’ topics range from different criminal profiles, to the way police and detectives are trained, their ranks, drugs, weapons, laws, etc.

There’s a lot of useful information stored in those books. If you have a question, one of those books will most certainly have the answer.

Study Guides:

I don’t do this often, but I have sat down at the local bookstore and thumbed through a study guide or two of the Police Officer exam. It gives me a good sense of what an officer has to learn in school and what they need to know. I can get a sense of my what character knows or, if s/he is a younger character, I can get a sense of what s/he is working on in school.

Plus, I enjoy taking the practice test. There’s a section where they give you a picture and you have to study it for a certain amount of time. Then you answer questions based on the scene and see how much you remember.

Take Classes:

Skimming through study guides is quick and easy, but you could also take a course here and there. Do you want to get a hands-on feel for forensics? Take a college course on the matter. It’d be much easier to write the five senses after you’ve actually lived it.

Even if it is just a mock-up in a classroom.

Talk To Real People:

Do you know any police officers in real life? Talk to them. Ask them questions. It’s all research and depending on how well you know the officer, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to ask for certain information.

Or you can always talk to a family member or close friend of an officer. Talk to retired officers and listen to their stories. I’m sure they all have interesting ones.

So there are many different ways to research the mystery genre. Despite it being fiction, you should have some sort of truth in there. You should have some sort of knowledge of the profession.

After all, you are your protagonist.

Writing Prompt:

Write down what you know–or what you think you know–about the law enforcement profession. Then do some light research to see how much you really know. Do you need to do a lot of research before starting your novel? Or do you have enough real information to get by?

Related Articles:

Mystery Novel Writing: 5 FAQs on How to do Excellent Research for Your Novel
Research Resources for Mystery and Crime Writers
Conducting Forensic Research

March: Inspiration Board

The March #YearOfHappy was to create an inspiration board. The idea was to create an actual board and hang it somewhere where you can look and admire it every day.

I’ll admit I cheated with this one.

I decided to use my virtual board, so to speak. I add things on there all the time, so why not share it with everyone here? It has everything on there that inspires me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a board for it.

That’s right… I’m talking about my Pinterest.

I currently have 93 boards. All are things that inspire me. Here are just a few:

Writing (I have writing, research, vocabulary, names, editing, characters, and blogging)
Teaching (I have a general teaching board, plus many different units in their own individual boards, plus special education)
Sunday School
Reading (I even have a board for the books I’ve read)

Considering that I have 93 boards, that’s not even a dent. I have different video game boards like Pokemon and The Legend of Zelda as well as different movies (The Lord of the Rings) and TV shows (Once Upon A Time).

All 93 boards inspire me in more ways than one. If you don’t know me personally, you would just need to look at my Pinterest profile and you’ll get to know to me in an instant.

So, if you want to see the kinds of things I love then I suggest you check out my Pinterest profile.

I add to my boards all the time and I’m sure there will be more than 93 boards in time.

Distractions

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My Camp NaNoWriMo word count is now 4,032. Yay! This took my three and a half hours. Can we discuss this? I mean, I wrote 2,002 words yesterday in about two hours. Today I wrote 2,030 words in three and a half hours. Want to know why? I will tell you why…

I was distracted. *Gasp!* Yes, I was very, very much distracted. I was distracted by my turtle (as seen in the picture above), my cat who wanted to look out the window so I needed to make him a giant step (I moved the ottoman and put a bin on top of it), my dog (who always decides it’s a good time to play when I’m writing), and the internet. Yes, Lucy decided to give me internet on a day I did not need it.

Speaking of the internet, I found wonderful things on there. I was on Twitter (if you follow me on Twitter, you probably know Twitter was a very big distraction for me) and someone posted a link to a site called Noisli. There are different background sounds on there to listen to as you write. It’s great! I used the coffee shop one.

Yet, I will admit the internet did come in handy at one point. As you know, I’m writing Diary of a Killer and my protagonist apparently has anger issues. Like, really obnoxious anger issues. He explodes at literally nothing. He’s in therapy for it. So I was looking up anger management; symptoms, treatment, etc. I found one helpful site, but if anyone has any information on the subject so I can compare, that would be muchly appreciated!

Anyway, I had an iced coffee and I’m wired right now. It’s probably the reason I had such a short attention span. However, it’s going for 9:00 pm and I unfortunately have work tomorrow, so I need to go wind down so I can go to bed soon.

I hope everyone else is having a productive Camp NaNo. 🙂

Camp NaNoWriMo April 2014

Camp NaNo

 

I have been anticipating this day since the first day of March. I told myself I was going to edit a novel during the month of March and I did! Hunter is in the process of being re-typed as a second draft. So, that’s that.

I wanted to have plenty of time to plan for Camp NaNoWriMo. I knew what novel I wanted to write, but I didn’t have it planned out. I literally finished editing Hunter on March 30. Then I spent all day yesterday (March 31) doing homework. I worked until 2:30 then got the majority of this week’s homework done because I wanted the first week of Camp to be a productive one.

Would you like to know something sad, though? I went into work yesterday and they asked me, “Are you available every day this week and next week?” I said yes because I need the money, but of course it would happen during NaNo…not to mention this month I have my cousin’s birthday, my father’s birthday, Easter, planning for my sister’s upcoming wedding, homework, and now work on top of it. But, it’ll be good to practice my time-managing skills.

Anyway, I’m writing Diary of a Killer for Camp. I’m sure most of you know I have a completed novel called Diary of a Lover. No, this is not a sequel. It’s a complete different set of characters in a different setting. The only similarity is the title because they are both written in “diary” format. Each chapter is a new diary entry. Oh, they have psychology in common, as well. Of course, I know nothing of psychology so a lot of research will be required, so…this will be fun.

I didn’t get a chance to plan it so when I started writing after work today all I had was the title and that was it. I didn’t even have the protagonist’s name…I didn’t even know the gender. In case you’re all wondering, it’s a boy! Yay, congratulations! As I wrote the first chapter, I started coming up with ideas for the novel, so I’m hoping everything will work out. I’m also summarizing each chapter as I write them to help keep the plot in line as well as for when I finally edit it. Hopefully that will do some good when I research things, too.

I will post a summary soon…ish. I have to actually write one first. 😉

For all of you doing NaNo, good luck! And I hope you reached above and beyond the word goal (I got 2,002 words today). If you guys are participating, feel free to add me as a buddy on NaNo (Fiery_Sapphire) and also let me know your word count and what you’re writing. I’m very interested! 🙂