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“How Do I Write This?” — Writing Research for Beginners

On my to-do list today is a blog post I’m scheduled to do for a group. I plan to write about finding inspiration in the world.

After seeing FB posts on several writing groups, I’m wondering if I should change it to basic writing research. I’m seeing way too few quick answer and writing process questions today and way, way too many, “I have this idea. How would it work? What should I write?”

Um, that’s a part of your world-building, and you will be far, far better off if you do it for yourself.

I knew zip about nanites, bio-terrorism, or really *electricity* before I started writing Spark Rising. Yep, I was a flip the switch for lights and don’t stick a fork in the outlet girl. That’s an exaggeration, but not by much. I had a very basic understanding of electricity. I love science, but that just wasn’t a field that excited me. Now? I’ve got a deeper knowledge base of direct current, alternating current, batteries, Tesla being the real man and blah, blah, blah. Not an expert–not even close–but enough to build on. I had an idea and I researched the hell out of it, fitting together pieces of reality with my fantasy. (IMPORTANT NOTE: I DO NOT write hard scifi. If I did, this “expose” would be shameful! Just sayin’!)

The thing is, each bit of research fed the creative part of my brain. A side note or chasing something that seemed cool but irrelevant down a rabbit hole often led to my next big idea or even a new plot point (Capacitors! Oh, my love affair with capacitors!). You’re doing yourself no favors by looking for “shortcuts” in other people’s minds. And no, I’m not talking collaboration…I’m talking about building your idea from the ground up and making sure that YOU understand your world so you can take your reader with you.

Don’t know how to write an idea about a deep-sea military installation in the future, because you just don’t have the science? READ. RESEARCH. Read some more. Offer to take a quick-thinking friend out for coffee/a meal/drinks if they’ll let you riff on your idea and give you feedback. Find yourself a friendly oceanographer or military engineer (people LIKE talking about what they do, so long as you’re not wasting their time–do research first!). Read and research some more. Chase inspiration bunnies. Take notes, of whatever depth your writing process requires.

Then sit your ass down and write. It’ll suck at first. It’ll feel awful and unnatural.

Until one day, it won’t. One day, it’ll feel amazing. To get to that day, you just have to slog. If you can enjoy the hard work along the way, so much the better, but please have no illusions…after the initial inspiration, it’s HARD WORK.

Do it.

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