Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How To Research Like a Rock Star - Guest Post by Micaiah Saldaña

Micaiah Saldaña is, first and foremost, a daughter of the one true King. When she isn’t lost in the stories she writes, you can find her reading just about anything YA Christian fiction, listening to her favorite music artists, and drinking lots and lots of salted caramel hot chocolate. You might be able to catch her rambling on her blog, Notebooks and Novels, if she hasn’t made her way to Narnia. Yet.

Recently, I embarked upon the journey of writing a novel. A YA historical fiction novel, that is. And with the first word of that genre comes a lot of research. May I repeat: A LOT of research. Books, websites, diaries, photographs…. It all seems very daunting, doesn’t it?

No matter what genre you’re writing in, be it contemporary, historical, fantasy, or even romance, you’re probably going to have to do some form of research. Fantasy writers may need to research sword fighting techniques, contemporary writers will need to research their settings…. It’s a hard truth that may have you groaning a bit (especially all you pansters out there ;)), but it can be way less painless and easier than you think. Here are three tips that have helped me research like a rock star for my latest writing escapades.

1. Find Some Good Sources.

The first step in researching like a rock star is finding some reliable sources. No, this doesn’t mean heading straight to Wikipedia, although that would be nice. But Wikipedia isn’t always very reliable. Instead, check your local library for some good books and find reliable websites dealing with your topic(s). One of my favorite places to go when I’m looking for a good, reliable source is a museum website.

For example, I had to do a lot of research on the Wild West for my Camp Nanowrimo novel. I was able to visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s website and read some articles and watch videos about cowboy life on their “Explore The West” page. If the museum you’re looking into doesn’t have a page like that (which can happen), be sure to check out their online store if they have one. You’ll be sure to find some great research books you can purchase or hunt down at the library. I’m telling you, if you aren’t on a first name basis with your librarian, you will be soon. ;)

2. Take LOTS of Notes.

You’re going to need a large notebook and/or a blank Word document for this one… A nice mug of salted caramel hot chocolate would be nice too. :) Now’s the time to copy down everything you’ve learned, from the little details about that quirky little bridge to the proper way to shoot a bow. It’s best to also take a few mental notes so that during your first draft you’re not constantly flipping through notebooks or scrolling through Word documents. Every bit counts so that your story will leap off the page and be as real as possible. Be sure to keep a list of all the resources you’re getting information from. It’ll be so helpful in the long run when you’re trying to validate a fact or two in the future.

3. Organize It All.

I’m going to be honest, I’m not the most organized human being on earth. But organizing my notes makes has made it so much easier to look back on certain facts when I’m writing. For example, if you’re researching cowboys, separate your notes on chuck wagons from the ones on the many uses of a bandana. And if you’re may more organized than me, you can even jot down where you found that fact so you can remember where you learned all of this cool stuff!

Whew, research still sounds like a boatload of work, doesn’t it? It’s true, researching for your novel can be hard. It can be time consuming. It can have your head swimming and your brain ready to burst at the seams. But the benefits reaped by all of your hard work will be so worth it. Because of your research, your story will not only be factually accurate but even more enjoyable and professional. And, when you do it right, you’ll actually end up finding it to be quite fascinating.

And who knows? You may learn a thing or two. ;)

Have you done any research in the past for your novel? What is the hardest part about this process for you? Which of these tips will help you the most?


  1. Yes to taking notes! That's a necessary thing I rarely do, but then I pay for it when I can't remember the exact details, or where I got the information from. :( Good post, Micaiah! Thanks for sharing your tips. :)

    1. Yes, it is so hard to remember what you've learned without note-taking! Thanks, Jessica! =) And you are most welcome!

  2. I haven't done much research (except for one story for which I had to research comas, which was difficult because doctors don't know too much about them!). But I'd say definitely make a note of where you got that information from! It could save a lot of time (and trawling through internet history) later!

    Thanks for the helpful post, Michaiah! (I'll stick around and check out Tessa's blog ;)

    Jem Jones

    1. Oh, yes, do take note of it! I recently forgot to and now I'm paying for it. xD

      You're welcome! Yes, do stick around, it's a wonderful blog!


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