Research and Writing, Where Do I Start?
An energy practitioner I know told me that resolutions made at the Chinese New Year are more likely to remain past a few hours. She said it had to do with a number of factors. I thought about what she said, and it made sense to me because the Chinese New Year is usually at the end of January or beginning of February.
I mention this because people often read books because they want to make a change in themselves. The books are guides to how people can improve on what makes them special. For the authors, though, writing a book that impacts someone’s thoughts on how to change isn’t always easy. I have met a number of people who are great healers, but they don’t know how to convey their points to the public. Yet, they want to expand their practice by putting their expertise into a book.
My last column talked about making the book flow like a river. This column will be about the research.
How Much Is Enough?
Many people will ask me how much research do they need for a book. For a memoir, you probably do not need much. For fiction, you might need a lot or a little depending on the type you write. For nonfiction, the amount depends on the topic.
The general rule of thumb is that you need at least two independent and reliable sources for an article. You need at least five independent and reliable sources for a white paper, about 10 for a research paper, and more than 10 for a book. Some book topics can get away with less (more on that later). You need to be able to quote your sources, and you need stories that make your subject readable (see first column).
For self-help and motivational books, you have to provide accurate statements. Otherwise, people might not accept what you have to say. Then, you won’t be allowing change in their lives. The best way to have people accept your advice is to provide personal stories from leaders who have gone through what you are discussing in the book. These stories come from reliable sources.
What Do You Do With Research?
Every author has a unique way of taking notes. Some hand write them while others take notes on the computer. Some use index cards. Others use phone applications. It doesn’t matter how you take notes as long as you can quickly find the quote or story you need. You need some way to remember where you got the information and what is important about it.
You want to weave your notes in the book as I mentioned last time so it flows like a river (see second column). Pick those stories that will have the most impact on your points in the book. For example, if you want people to change their negative thought processes, you could provide a story where you thought negatively about something that turned out bad. Then, you would discuss that same story, but turning around the negativity toward positive thoughts and explain the difference in your outcome.
Last year, my car’s transmission died shortly before my son’s graduation. Instead of complaining and getting upset about an issue I couldn’t control, I thought that at least I walked more and lost weight plus I had friends and family to help me when I needed it most. These are the stories you want to be shown through your research.
When I edit a book, one of the biggest issues I have to overcome with an author is the use of jargon. This is especially true for books written as a marketing tool in an industry. You are an expert in your field, and you want to write a book to build your credibility in that field and to market your business. You have to remember that readers are not experts in your field. They don’t know the terms you know. They don’t follow the trends you do. They don’t know the acronyms you do. Therefore, you need to make the writing as simple as possible.
Spell out all acronyms on the first reference. Keep a glossary at the back of the book for handy reference for readers. Define all terms and explain them in words people understand. If you are talking about changing their lifestyle to improve their health or mind, you can compare your point to something they do every day, such as washing clothes. Of course, the reference will be different depending on what you want to convey.
Keep It Short
The last piece of advice is to keep your sentences, chapters and book short. People has short attention spans and don’t want to read a long dissertation on why they need to change. However, your editor will help with that task.
For more from Louise visit Organize Your Writing