Research Made Yours: The Power Of Making Your Own Myth

There is a blessing in creating your own world.

And with all that creation, you need something that will hold it together. You need the thread that belief and myth provide.

When I began my writing career, I was in a sort of tailspin. I knew that I wanted to write, but I also knew that I wanted to write about a great many things!

(This is where I must plug the necessity for you as a writer to have a tribe or network by which you are engaged. It can be life saving! Don’t knock social media!)

I follow several writers on Twitter. None have been so gracious as the magnanimous Tananarive Due. She is a published writer (NYT Best Selling, mind you) and she teaches at UCLA. The fact that she would have time to even answer me, a struggling, have drowning writer in the social media ether was monumental.

I asked her about making time to write. I asked her about how she made time. I even asked her about research and work. Tananarive Due gave me a piece of advice that I will give to you:

“Make it up.”

She told me this in response to needing a myth, specific research for a topic. Her advice was if I didn’t see it, couldn’t find it, just make it up. Tananarive Due didn’t know that she had just shattered the glass ceiling of my imagination.

With imagination being my fuel and conduit to express my thoughts on the world, I did not know I could do that. I did not know I could make up what I needed independent of what I had seen in a book. I didn’t know I could do that–be allowed to do that!

In reminding me of what I am, of what I am allowed to do, that freed me is a writer. It let me explore with a more fearless stance. It allowed me to research, to read, not just to take as gospel fact–but to analyze. To bend. To reinterpret. To make my own.

As a writer, a teacher, I give you this same freedom. I free you from the staunch mechanics of your imaginations! You are a writer, so write. You have to absolute right to construct and deconstruct the worlds you create as you see fit! You must make up what you need, by simple virtue of needing it.

Go forth and create. Challenge your imagination, and see what the fruits are and become of it. Remember the guiding light from the Dark Tower of Stephen King as you do: “Do not come soft to the blank page.”

Why Writers Need Homework

Image result for homework piles

The imagination of a writer is a marvelous thing. It can be freeing, nonrestrictive and provide seducing conversation. Yet, as a writer, you must understand that you have to feed it.

What do I mean?

Well, the adage is that writers should always be reading. There should be an a book that you are reading, would like to read, and of course have a TBR list. Reading allows you to critique, critically think, and check out the competition. A writer needs homework. The greater thing? Unlike when you were in school, you get to pick the amount of homework.

If you like horror, you should be reading it.

If fantasy and romance are your jam, you should be reading it.

If you like sci-fi, it’s not enough to watch SyFy.

Reading is the simplest way to fuel your imagination. To stretch it! Find new things that you like. Find out what else you could branch out to and towards. What challenges you? What inspires you? Or, what genre or topic do you escape with.

Being a writer means you will have homework forever. This is not an exaggeration. This is the blessing and the curse of being a writer. There may always be a portion of you that is intrigued by something said, overheard or read. From that, the gears of your imagination may turn–even without your conscious knowledge. Don’t fear that. The homework is what you make it. The homework is to strengthen, to encourage and remind of you of this:

If you are a writer, you have to write.

Ergo, you need something to write about.

Do you homework, my scribes, poets and oracles. Do your homework.

[image from pcthandbook.com]

Research & Genre

When branching out into new genres, this is always going to require some work. However, but researching for a specific genre is another sort of work. This research allows you to see where it is your imagination may be naturally bent towards.

Anne Rice says it this way:

“Go to wear the joy is.”

In researching where your joy lies, it may take trial and error. It make take several changes for you to find your beat and bearings in it.

How you write for fiction isn’t the same as non-fiction.

How you write romances isn’t the same as how you write horror, fantasy or speculative fiction.

In finding your beat, you must know what the basic rules are in order to bend (or break) them to your liking.

In research, this includes writers groups and workshops. Research isn’t limited to Google, old wives tales and Reddit.

You’re a writer. By nature of profession, you get the freedom to change something and no one notice straight away. Use that to your advantage.

Research.

Rewrite.

Find what works.

Keep bending pages.

[Image from slideplayer.com]

The Value Of Book Knowledge

Writers are readers!

There are things in your imagination that sometimes need verification.

What do I mean?

That means that for all your imagination can fuel, if there are certain things which are based in reality—you’re going to need information.

The goal of any story is to have your reader keep reading! The ultimate test of any story is cohesion–even with fiction.

Research is the homework writers must do–have to do–for their writing careers. There is no way around it! The bulk of the work is and will remain powered by your imagination. Research is the rocket fuel to that. It is the foundation that allows your imagination to leapfrog or even recreate it as you see fit.

Consider research to be your stepping stone, or your rocket booster. However, I consider research my mental exercise. It gives me a starting and finishing point to anything I may do. It gives me parameters or borders to challenge.

Research can be annoying and cumbersome, but remember why you’re doing it. Your characters may need to know what you do. Or you may have to now how to rescue them from some predicament.

You’re building a world. Research helps it to all hold together. Do your homework. There are people waiting and depending on it.

[image from oregoncenterfornursing.org]

Beta Readers: Pros & Cons (Part II-PROS)

There is something so amazing about sharing your work with people excited to read it!

It is a testament to the WIP (Work In Progress) that those whom you have asked to read you work are just as passionate about what you are creating as you are! The people whom are willing to look over typos, incomplete sentences or even lopsided plots (and their holes) and see the potential (and potential greatness) in what you’re creating!

Beta Readers are the frosting on the WIP cake! They make it better, sweeter and help to bring everything together. When your Beta Readers are engaged; when they communicate with you; when they get swept up in a world you’ve created? This is the very best thing.

Beta Readers offer you first hand reaction to your story! The scary part of any WIP is the actual draft, but to have someone willing and engaged enough to read it? Including the revisions? This is a high compliment and encouragement.

Think of Beta Readers as sous chefs. They help to get and pull everything together. Their help and input help to shape the document, making it perfect for the rest of the world.

Do not shun the extra eyes, dear ones. Don’t negate the power of those whom are willing to review your work and invest in it! Beta readers are needed! Seek them out and use them!

The work awaits!

Beta Readers: Pros & Cons (Part I-CONS)

As great, and as much as I sing the praises of Beta Readers, they do have a downside.

Beta Readers are the best weapon you can have for a new work especially when they read and get back to you. Beta Readers are the best when they read your work and get back to you. The crucial thing to remember is that communication is essential to any draft or revision.

If you give your baby that your carried for almost a year, and turn them over to someone your trust, only to have them tell you they have nothing else to tell you? Even after they have been with your child all day? You would be a little suspicious and a lot aggravated. You would think the horrible and the impossible all at once! The main thing you may think is:

“Did they even pay attention?”

The same with Beta Readers. The best Beta Readers are engaged, they are excited to read your work, give feedback and even criticism! As the writer, as the creator of any work, your primary job is to protect your work. Your job is to revise and finish your own work.

Think of a WIP (Work In Progress) as baking a cake. All the ingredients go into the batter:  milk, sugar, butter and flour. There are elemental things that go into it which are not to be disputed. A WIP requires imagination, time, a draft and a reader. These things are immutable.

One of the best metaphors I heard in regards to having an editor or another reader was:  “Would you do you own eye surgery?”

If you’re a rational, wise person, you wouldn’t. This means that you can’t always see what is the best thing to do! But this element of the draft process can only work if the readers do their jobs!

Beta Readers have to be engaged. They have to value your time, your intention and you work. If they cannot do that, if they will not do that, don’t trust them with your work.

You wouldn’t trust your baby with just anyone. A WIP is the same way! Don’t trust your baby to someone that can’t won’t talk to you. Those are the ones whom are most likely to take your work. Be ware. You’ve been warned.