Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Top Five Research Tips from Anna Schmidt

Today, author Anna Schmidt shares five things (and a bonus tip) that have helped her when researching a novel. -- Sandy

Anna:
Step by step: Research is often overwhelming, and for a novelist, it can get in the way of a good story. I like to break it down—for instance in the novel I’m working on now my heroine has to deliver a baby in Arizona in 1882 in the middle of nowhere.  So I research what I need to write the scene.

No time like the present: notice that I did not say I stored the research above in a file—I did the research when I came to the scene, then wrote the scene while the details were still fresh in my mind and I could lay my hands on my sources.

Look at the Big Picture: what are the pieces of research you need to make the story real from beginning to end? Setting? Furnishings? Clothing? Rely on visual research—go to the place if you can, watch films of the period, go through catalogues and magazines from the times, find photo collections from the period, and take advantage of historic home tours and collections in museums.

GOOGLE! I began to notice that whatever I entered in the search column, very often the third or fourth entry would be “Images”—CLICK ON THAT for a surprising treasure trove of resources.

Verify and revise! In this world where anyone can post just about anything online, an author needs to make sure the research is accurate. If possible I seek assistance from museums, institutions or societies that specialize in the historical place and time. In appreciation I make a donation. And when I uncover something that changes something major in my story? Research wins every time because some reader somewhere will know when you try to take “poetic license”—and they’ll not only call you on it, they’ll tell their friends.

One final tip—enjoy the journey. You’re learning something new and there are wonderful surprises along the way that will make you laugh or groan, smile and yes, sometimes weep.


Have you ever had to completely rethink your story because your research told you some aspect of the plot was not possible? 


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Anna Schmidt is a three-time finalist for the coveted RITA award presented annually by Romance Writers of America. Her novel A SISTER’S FORGIVENESS gave Anna her fourth finalist honor for the Reviewers’ Choice Awards from Romantic Times magazine. She has won that award twice before. Publisher's Weekly had high praise for Anna's WWII series--THE PEACEMAKERS--stating that Schmidt seamlessly integrates...actual events, and the courageous real-life individuals who fought against Hitler’s regime, with her fictional characters and their story, to produce a strong tale of hope and love in the face of insurmountable obstacles." The author of over twenty-five works of historical and contemporary fiction Anna has worked in the corporate world for two international companies, taught at the college level and is a popular presenter of hands-on workshops.

12 comments:

  1. Good morning Anna. Research changed the setting of my novel. I ended up moving it to West Virginia. Not something I planted on doing.

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    1. You don't say from where it moved but West Virginia is a wonderful and under-used setting!!! Anna

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  2. Oh yeah. When Truth Whispers...the hero worked for the CIA, and I had to make a few changes to my initial plot based on research and email correspondence with their liaison. Great tips, Anna!

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    1. Thanks! Hope everyone will feel free to add your own research tips to the conversation!!

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  3. I love Google's images. I used it looking for a piano my heroine would have played in my upcoming release. Google Books is a favorite of mine, too. I use it to check vocabulary terms as well as historical information. And don't get me started on Chronicling America! :)

    Like you, I do a lot of research as I go ... the big things beforehand, the little things during. Thanks, Anna!

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    1. Great additions to the list of tips!

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  4. Great post, Anna. Yes, I needed to tweak a plot point once because newspapers weren't printing pictures yet LOL. But it was an easy fix. One thing I don't like, though, is when an author's research starts to sound like a history lesson. I like it when it's somehow entwined with dialogue et al. Enjoyed this!

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  5. I agree Tanya, I read a book where the author gave me a long research spiel from the heroine's POV and then turned around and gave me the same info dump from the hero.

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    1. Okay that's possibly someone who hasn't quite figured out her story so she hides behind research?

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  6. Research isn't my favorite part of the whole process, but I do enjoy learning lots of new things. One thing I love is finding pictures of my characters and I have had complete changes of character based on this! Silly thing that just a picture can change everything.

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  7. What's that about a picture and 1000 words? Apologies to all for delay in replying--I am traveling and the e-world can be difficult on the road!!!

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