Research vs. Procrastination and I’m Off to See The Agents, The Wonderful Agents of Mine (Sung to the Wizard of Oz)

Tomorrow, I’m off to see my agents in San Francisco We are supposed to discuss “time lines.” I guess that means how long I have to promote myself and my work before they can help me get this next project of mine off and running. If you recall, my agent did not manage to sell one of my projects, and her husband sent me off to promote another one. They said I was “antsy” when I asked if I could find another agent who might take the project on immediately and suggested this meeting. I guess we also will take a look at where I am going, how I am going to get there and how they will help me. Those are my words. I want and need that from them. Anyway, that’s tomorrow’s agenda, and I’m a little nervous. I don’t often get a chance to spend time with them. I enjoy their company and value their time, but I’m always a little afraid of doing something “wrong.” Just my stuff… I’ll let you know how the meeting goes.

Here’s another short bit of news: I finished the first draft of my Write Nonfiction in November project. In fact, I sent it off to my agents, along with a bunch of other stuff. It needs some work, but it’s not half bad. I think I told you that its a booklet based on a four-part teleseminar series I taught. I plan to sell it at the back of the room when I teach or speak and on line as well. I’ll produce it as an e-book, too.

Okay, a short post on research vs. procrastination (as per Linda’s request). Here’s my take on this subject, for whatever it’s worth. It’s very easy for a nonfiction writer to waste away the hours doing research, especially on the Internet. I have often found a whole day gone by without noticing as I’ve read surfed around the net reading all sorts of things that seem related to my topic. If you’ve got time to spare, this poses no problem. If you have a deadline or, like me, have few hours in the day to work, this does not serve you. So, Google your subject and try to find the websites that look most promising. Follow your best leads and links. Give yourself a time frame within which you have to quite researching — 2-3 hours or whatever you can spare — and then begin writing.

Use this same principle when reading for research. Tons of books have been published on most subjects. You could read for years. Pick the best few books, or the most recent few books, or the books by the most-well-known experts, and then call it quits.

I prefer conducting interviews over reading books, because I don’t have enough hours in my day to read as many books as would be necessary to do extensive research. I read a few books or parts of books, and then I start interviewing the authors or other experts. They can tell me what I need to know in a lot less time than it would take to read their whole book. Plus, they answer my questions specifically. Be cautious about spending too much time interview, though. This can become a trap as well. You can spend all your time talking to experts and never get around to writing.

Then, of course, you simply need to know when to stop researching and start writing. Ask yourself, “Am I just procrastinating and putting off writing? Do I have enough research to begin writing?”

I always err on the side of doing too much research, and I don’t recommend this. It makes writing more difficult. I think it might be better to research just enough, begin writing, and then go back and do extra research to fill in gaps. The way I do it, I end up having to distill pages and pages of research or interview transcripts into just a few paragraphs of copy. However, an overabundance of research does give you excess material for more articles, books, essays, etc.

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