Tips for Simplifying Research

By E.  M. Youman

I came across a great blog post from author, Chuck Wendig. The article was about writer’s block. Something he wrote truly resonated with me: “Sometimes you’re not ready to write a story.”

Picture this scenario: You take an idea, jump in and start writing it, but the words won’t come. Maybe you have an idea for a story, but it doesn’t have legs yet. Could it be you haven’t finished letting it roll around in your subconsciousness? But if all the advice on the interweb is screaming for you to write every day, then what are you, fledgling writer, supposed to do?

I think the answer lies in research. Take the idea and start researching the setting, the occupations, the poisons, the guns, the psychological profiles. Whatever you can gleam from that first inkling you had for a new story. But research can have its own form of block. It’s a big world out there and searching google for your answers can take five minutes or it can take five weeks. Surely there’s something we can do to make it an easier process.

  1. Your Local University’s Library.

Support your local university by buying a membership card to their library. University Libraries have access to huge databases filled with journals specializing in different niches. Instead of typing in “poison in 1775” in google and getting a million search returns, you could use the library’s database to search medical journals. You’ll come up with articles that are closer to your subject matter, because the pool of data is smaller. The second reason is secondary sources. Journal articles not only covers research on the author’s topic, they also give brief summaries of all the research done on that topic.


So if you want to know about a certain poison in 1775 you’ll not only learn about that, but you’ll also learn about all poisons in 1775. As a writer, you can appreciate having extra information in case the poison you had in mind, wouldn’t work out the way you expected it to. Third, it’s easier to find follow-up information. Have you ever read a blog and wished you knew more about the subject matter? Academic journals have bibliographies that can point you to other authoritative sources. So instead of spending hours trying to figure out the right key phrase to help google give you what you need, you could spend that time finding the right article that links you with the network of resources for all  you could ever want to know about the topic.

  1. Talking to the authorities.

Searching blogs for people who are an authority on the subject, is a quick and effective way to get what you want. For my newest story The Prince’s Plan, I needed to know how infections worked. I found two blogs by people in the medical field. I told them about my story and gave them a list of hypothetical questions. They were more than happy to give me advice on what was plausible and what would never happen in this universe.

The only con to this approach, you should plan to wait a few months before they’ll respond.

The benefit of researching when you can’t write, is that by the time you’re done gathering information, your muse will probably be ready to get to work.


About the Author

E. M. Youman lives in the warm part of California. She loves dark chocolate and is a The Prince's Plan ebookmacaroni and cheddar cheese junkie. When she’s not writing a sexy tearjerker she can be found with her nose in a book or doing a Netflix marathon of her favorite tv series.

Her debut novel The Prince’s Plan will be available February 7, 2017. To be notified of E. M. Youman’s book releases, sign up for her Book Club

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