Keeping Track of Research

I recently had a query from Tristan Bancks (writer of the Mac Slater, Cool Hunter books) about how I keep my research in order. Actually, I’m not very good at keeping my research in order. I lose things all the time (eg. this morning).  So I thought if I did a blog about it, someone might have suggestions for the perfect method.

I always have a notebook for each book I’m going to write. If I read something that might be useful, or see something on TV or if I just get an idea in the middle of the night, I right it down in the notebook. I take it with me if I go to the library to do some research. I also have a folder for each potential book. That’s where I keep magazine articles, photocopies from books, pictures, photos, pamphlets etc. I sometimes buy books on the subject or about the historical period as well. I end up with quite a lot of stuff.

I might be writing one book and thinking about another, so I don’t want things to get confused, so I have an archive box for each project and all the books, notes, folders for each book go in the box. Then I only have one place to look for something.

Trouble is the box gets in a mess and the thing I want is always down the bottom. This is the box for the book I’m writing at the moment. Not very neat as you can see.

I also keen research info on my computer. I have a new(ish) writing program called Scrivener which I really like. There is a panel down the lefthand side where you can have links to pictures, websites, research notes etc. I have a timeline there, character notes, my synopsis of the story, plus reference photos I’ve taken. I find that’s really good, but I can’t scan everything, so I still have the box.

The only time I was really organised was when I was writing Dragon Companion. I had so many notes I had to be organised. I put them all in alphabetical order. This is about half the folders I have.

I certainly don’t have the definitive research storage method. Any suggestions welcome.

9 responses to “Keeping Track of Research

  1. wow! i’m so messy compared to all of you! my research is all over the place(mostly in my brain), although i hardly have any trouble locating the piece of information i want.hehe. but i haven’t that much research yet.
    some advice: perhaps you could colour-code your folders. have a bright colour for one type of research(e.g. characters)no matter which book you are writing. also for your box, stack everything vertically so you don’t have to fumble around! (;

  2. Sarah,
    I’m messy too, that’s why the box is a mess. It is hard to organise it as there are things that are different shapes and sizes— diaries, maps, paperback books, postcards. Every time I write a new book, I try something new.

  3. i am doing an english assignment and i have to make a picture book and write a proposal for it, i have finished my picture book but i don’t really konow how to write my proposal. particularly terms like ‘initial payment’, ‘royalty’,start-up capital’. the sheet we have doesn’t actually explain. could you please help me (before 27th please)?

  4. Dear Carole
    I am a big fan of the dragon keeper series and have some ideas to keep you organised so you can make them even better.
    1. Put your research in different folders, best clear.
    2. If you write things down in a notebook as a research book and then draft with the information thats there
    3. With the information I have given you in number 2 if you keep it the information will copme in handy if your planning books any time soon.

  5. Sarah,
    Sorry I have been late in replying. I suppose by ‘initial payment’ they mean ‘advance’ which is the money you get before you write the books. Royalties are the % of the price of the book that that author gets. I have no idea what ‘start up capital’ has to do with writing a book. If you look at this website, it will tell you a bit about advances and royalties.

  6. thanks for the information, but it’s okay, i can and in the assignment on time! (the stupid picture book took me 22 hours to complete and the colouring in is terrible!)but one question, how much royalty and initial payment does the average author ask for?

  7. I am really enjoying (and learning from) your comments on research and the writing process. I am definitely going to look into Scrivener. I didn’t know such programs existed. I am a huge Dragonkeeper fan and recommend the series to everyone!

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