Picture this: You’re steadily typing away at your keyboard. The words are flowing, and you’re making great progress on your nonfiction book project. The writing feels effortless, until…you realize you’re missing some information. You feel you need this key research before you can move on. So, you stop.
Maybe you leaf through some papers on your desk, get up and study a shelf of books, pick a few out, and then flip through their pages. Possibly you look in your filing cabinet and peak into folders. You might also search through numerous files on your computer or in your browser. Then you turn to the internet to begin a keyword search.
Three hours later, you’ve not written one more word and the flow is gone. You get up to take a break.
Lack of Organization Leads to Lost Time
More often than not, when you find yourself without research at your fingertips, your writing stops until you locate what you need. But this is a big mistake. And it’s not a mistake you need to make.
Of course, getting organized before you write can make a big difference. If you organize your nonfiction book project, you are more likely to have your research at your fingertips when you need it. Also, if you take the time to plan out your book in detail, creating a table of contents and chapter summaries, you should have a good idea of what you will need for each chapter. You can then find this information prior to starting to write the book as a whole or a particular chapter.
How to Avoid Letting Research Get in the Way of Writing
Even with good planning and organization, inevitably you will find times as you write your nonfiction book when you need some important information to keep writing. This does not need to stop you from having a productive writing period, though.
Employ these three tactics to avoid the time suck of researching instead of writing.
- The Bracket Method: When you realize you need a piece of research, leave a notation in your manuscript about the missing information and keep writing. Don’t just ignore your need for more information and move on. Type in a set of brackets where the information belongs and place a note within the brackets indicating what information is necessary. For example, [Find study on effects of positive thinking on test taking, and then include paragraph on the importance of thinking positively before you take a test as well as during the test.] Then highlight the bracketed information (with a color) so you easily can find it later. Make time in your writing schedule to return to the places in your manuscript that require research. In this way, you quickly can add in the research and additional content at a later time.
- A Pre-Writing Research Session: Make notes about the research you need for a particular chapter prior to actually writing that chapter or sitting down to write. Make a distinction between research time and writing time. Schedule a certain amount of time for research that is not your writing time. During your research time, get as much of your research together as possible. Then, during your writing time, just write. If you run into the need for more research, just use The Bracket Method. You can add that research to a list of items for your next Pre-Writing Research Session.
- A Post-Writing Research Session: As soon as you finish a writing session, go back through the content you produced and begin researching each bracketed item. In this way, you will quickly obtain all the information you need while it is still fresh in your mind. Then you can choose to sit down and write again later on the same day—or even add the content as you do the research, or you can do so at another time, such as at a designated “add research” writing session or during the next day’s writing session.
Do you have other tactics you use to stop research from getting in the way of your writing? If so, tell me in a comment below.