Organizing Research Tips Sought PLEASE!!!

by Juliana Jeffery
(Gold Coast, Australia)

Question: Firstly I re-iterate the opinion of others on the utter wealth of information, help and advice available on this site. But, what is so wonderful is the user-friendly & workability of data given.

So now to my ?, I would like some advice on managing my research data for my writing (a striving Tolkien at work here. I find my self getting bogged down in the research & would dearly love some input from the team & devotees of the site as to suggestions on the collating of the data/ideas.

I have used the approach of breaking data into the realms/towns/kingdoms allocating a book & scrapbooks to each. However, allocating an entire notebook to each subject such as warfare, battle accoutrements, castles etc.

This takes up Soooo much time that I find I trade off on actual writing. My work format may well be part of the process but I would sincerely appreciate other writers input and treasure them ever so much.

I wish every one success in their endeavours & again salute this wonderful site.


Answer: First, thanks for the kind feedback about this site. It's great to hear from people who appreciate it.

Second, it sounds as though you have become caught up in that gordian knot known as worldbuilding.

As you are experiencing, worldbuilding is an exercise that has no end. There is literally no limit to the amount of time you can spend on it, because there is literally no limit to the amount of detail you can put into a world.

Fortunately, there is a limit to the amount of detail you can put into a novel. There are only so many pages publishers are willing to pay to print for a first novel by a new author.

Yes, you want your world to be believable and rich in detail. It's one of
the things that fantasy readers look forward to. However, just like in a painting, it is only the foreground that needs to be rendered in vivid detail. The background can be vague and misty and out of focus.

In other words, put your effort into giving the reader the experience of the characters - the details they perceive. As for the rest, as long as it is consistent (which you can do with broad brushstrokes) that's good enough.

In other words, you may, for the sake of a story, need to describe a character's first impression of a town, but just the street he walks down. No need to draw a floorplan of every building.

Similarly, it may help paint a picture of an enemy if you give a few details of how he is dressed, but you don't need a complete description of the entire army.

Believe it or not, you can simply write the story of your main character's journey and fill in the details of the world as they become important to that journey, and not bother about those that aren't.

In your second draft, you can look closely at continuity, making sure your details don't contradict each other and perhaps adding in more now that you know more about your world.

The advantage is that you will be working on your story, not getting lost down the back alleyways of your world, filling in details no one will ever see.

This method may not appeal to you. I mention it because you might find something in between both methods will work best for you and make sure your story gets written.

If you're determined to stick with extensive workdbuilding, you may find software like Scrivener helpful for cross-indexing your reference notes. But be warned: cross indexing all your notes can double or triple the amount of work.

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