Let’s Do a Book+1
As I concluded +0, I shared the first directive for doing a book: “I’m hoping that you can see that writing a book is near the last step in the construction process. Before that, we need to figure out what we want constructing the book to do for us. Is that benefit worth the hours, weeks, months and possibly years that constructing the final book will take? If not, there is no point in starting. But if it is, there are few better ways to indulge ourselves over time.”
Since you are here, I’m assuming that doing your book is definitely worth the time and effort it will take. Our next step is to put that net around it that I also mentioned in +0. At this stage though, casting the net is necessary but not critical. We just need to be fairly sure we are casting it wide enough to capture everything we may want to incorporate into our book and narrowly enough to exclude most of what we don’t want. We can adjust the border as the process continues, but for now, let’s cast our nets.
This may be the first big red flag for you. It’s where we turn down our egos and enthusiasm. Whether your book will be fiction or non-fiction, closely following reality or totally made up, for other scholars or for two-year-olds, it will include details and assertions that must stand up to criticism by experts. It’s not good enough to be nearly correct or to not reference well known alternative perspectives or opinions. Just as good teachers should know as much or more than their students, good authors should usually know as much or more than their readers. For example, if you are going to mention a particular place, event, theory or set of facts or characteristics, you need to get it right. Fall short here and you start losing readers who will certainly pass it along to potential readers.
Do you have to be expert on every detail? Of course not. But you do have to get everything you mention or discuss correct. No factual mistakes, please.
Do you have to know everything about anything that comes up in your book? Of course not. But you do have to get the details about anything you write about correct. No contextual errors, please.
“Are you saying that I have to carefully research everything I’m going to include in my book?”
I am indeed saying just that. Do your research. And do it before you start constructing your book, definitely do your research before you think about how your book will be organized. The structure and content of your book comes from your research. It is not something you impose on your research. You may have a story or theme in mind, but its structure and content should emerge from your research.
Let’s Get Our Research Underway
Here there is good news and bad news. Just to be up-front with you, I don’t know much of anything about the elite authors who write a book or two or three every year and who seem to have endless knowledge about most anything and everything. It is indeed impressive.
Although I don’t know this for sure, I’m pretty sure that they have people. Their people do their research, fill-in the facts and details, or at least fact check everything for the author.
If you have people, sit down with them for an hour or so, giving them a general idea about your book, and then set them to work. They can produce a reference database for you; and if something is missing while you do your book, they can pop out and fill in the missing detail or information – easy-peasy.
No people? Me neither. We will just have to do our research ourselves.
There are many approaches to researching for a book. Even so, the core idea is always the same. We want to learn as much as possible about what goes into our book and, just as important, as much as we can about those who will consume what we produce. Having said that, we really do need to put a net around it. We can never know everything about anything. It’s like preparing for a test in school. At some point, we draw that line in the sand and sit for the test. I think it is likely that more great books have never been written than actually have for lack of drawing that line in the sand and getting on with writing the book.
Here’s my research plan:
I am generally interested in why some people succeed at life and living within whatever context they are functioning. I’m not suggesting that they could suddenly find themselves in another situation and that they would necessarily be successful. I am only noting that they are doing well, doing what they are doing.
Conversely, there are folks with the same or very similar circumstances who are not handling things nearly as well. What accounts for their relatively lower success levels?
Why are some parents more successful with their children than others? Why do some people handle interpersonal relationships better than others? Why are some leaders more effective than others? Why are some managers more able to guide their organizations through change processes than others? Why are some children mor engaged with school and mainstream activities and relationships than others? Why are some people more comfortably adjusted to their circumstances and opportunities than others?
You likely get the idea. These are all questions I have explored and written about. For the book I am doing now, I don’t plan to stray from the basic theme. I will focus on a specific group of people within a rather narrow context and set of circumstances. What interests you enough to sustain you through your journey?
A key point may not be obvious. My focus will be on something that interests me enough to do the research. For you, focus might be on a story that interests you enough to dig into the details, setting, people, and other elements of your story. A story happens in a specific place at a specific time, under specific conditions. The “specific” is what needs careful research.
Ask yourself, “What is so all fired interesting about this?” There’s where you will find your motivation to dig in and the staying power to sustain you through what will frequently be a most tedious process. Just as important, that “all fired interesting” will show through when you get to the writing step. It’s what makes it more fun than tedium.
That does it for +1. I’m hoping that one point comes through. Take the time and patience needed to do your research. Your opinions and musings may be very helpful for your readers but filling in the facts and details accurately and as fully as required is what will give your writing depth and verisimilitude.
For now, be well, do well and do something nice for someone. He or she will appreciate it and you both will have a better day.