Recently I’ve been working on Book 2, The Painting for my submission to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, which needs to be sent in by the end of August.
Occasionally I stop writing/ editing because I need to reach into that mountain of research taking up too much space and find out a detail such as:What did a dining room look like in the eighteenth century? Today I found out that dining rooms in country houses tended to have paintings of hunting scenes on the wall, whilst special paintings by Van Dyck for example were hung in the drawing room.
How do you keep track of all this information and where it came from?
Spreadsheet:I have a spreadsheet for the Bibliography, which mentions the book/article etc and includes notes relating to what it can be used for. After losing track of books etc read for Book 1 and having to locate them in various corners of the house, I won’t make that mistake again. (More on spreadsheets: How useful are outlines?)
A4 padI use an A4 pad to write notes about anything relating to my novel. That way, if I have a random thought such as ‘what if the heroine doesn’t know what to do after finishing university?’ I can make a note of it and write for a few minutes whether that’s a good idea. It’s amazing how plot ideas can be developed in this way just by asking myself questions such as ‘Maybe the hero can offer her a job and she realises it’s exactly what she wants to do’ and then ‘but where will she live?’ etc. Underneath all this I can add my note about dining rooms. That way nothing gets lost like in the days when the house was littered with post-it notes which didn’t make much sense.
Ring binderWhen reading a book for research, how do you make sure that you: a) draw out the relevant info without getting side-tracked by other stuff?; b) don’t forget what you’ve read in six months’ time and have to read the book again (another lesson learnt with Book 1)? These days, if a book is full of handy facts, I make notes and file them in a ring binder.
How do you keep track of research?
Thought I’d include a photo of this beautiful Chinese cedar tree at RHS Garden Wisley from a lovely walk last weekend on a day when the sun decided to shine (where’s it gone?!).