I actually have to read nonfiction?

 In Kell's Blog

I’m currently going through a lot of research for my novel-in-progress, Alone in Berlin, and it’s not easy. I’ve written a lot of historical fiction, but this one requires more research than any other I’ve written.

Also, I’ve just been working on The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy and the Kees & Colliers series for so long that those settings (Victorian UK and 1916-homefront 1940s England and France) are ingrained into my brains. I do a bit of research for each new story … but hardly any.

But I want to write WWII fiction. I want it to be realistic. I don’t want to make a bunch of stupid mistakes that would misrepresent the era. And it’s giving me a tremendous headache.

I … am not a details person. I never have been. I like looking at the big picture and glazing over the little things and running through life full-speed without hesitation.

However, as a historical author, this can lead to some stupid errors. For instance, in the first published version of The Lady of the Vineyard (thankfully unpublished now), I referred to English taxis as “colorful.”

*major facepalm*

Yeah, even I knew that, but I still forgot to stop and think about it. I had to have a friend point it out to me!

And sometimes this is fine. We need people who are action-based and focus on the big picture and don’t hesitate (like so many of you blasted peeps do) (I love you, BUT JUST CHOOSE YOUR ICECREAM FLAVOR, YOU FLIPPIN’ PHILOSOPHER).

But a good writer—and specifically a good historical writer—needs to do the research to make their novels shine.

Do you have a point?

I actually don’t. *glares at you for considering leaving this post before I’m done ranting about things that can’t possibly interest you at all*

Okay, I do have a point! I want to talk about what I’m learning about novel writing research.

So let’s get into that.

What I’m Learning About Researching for Historical Novels

  1. You’re going to learn a lot more than you need to know.

    • Unless there is a book out there that specifically deals with the topic of your novel, you’re probably going to wade through a tome about the 3rd Reich which only has a few pages dedicated to the Nazi Youth.
    • Yes, I can skim for the info I need, but that takes time. And I do end up picking up a lot I won’t use!
    • Is that a bad thing? No, it isn’t! You might need it more, and knowledge is power. Knowing more details about a historical error isn’t going to kill you—and it won’t kill me, either.
  2. Random plot bunnies tend to spring up.

    • Me right now: “OMW—there is so much drama potential here which will not fit into this story. Hmm …”
    • That is why my plot bunny list gets bigger and bigger every day. Research. Stupid research.
  3. Nonfiction. You have to actually read nonfiction.

    • I am probably the only person I know who hates all nonfiction so much that I would rather drive my car off a cliff than read it. Basically, I find it impossibly boring.
    • Christian nonfiction irritates me because I feel like people are telling me how to interpret God, and I CAN DO THAT MYSELF. Biographies … I just don’t like. They’d have to be written like a novel for me to get through. Anything vaguely school booky reminds me of the worst years of my life—when I was suffering through education. *winces* And on and on. I dislike most nonfiction that’s longer than a blog post.
    • (Sidenote: I could read all day about horses, dogs, cows, or other farm animals.) (That sort of thing is interesting.) (Books about writing aren’t bad, either.)
    • BUT I HAVE TO READ IT NOW, in large amounts, AND HONESTLY UGHH. I hate it. Ah, well.
  4. Taking notes is VERY important!

    • I … do not remember 99% of what I read? So I either highlight the text that I need to remember or take notes. Also, I try to write down whatever is gonna be important in the outline itself so I don’t lose track of it.
    • Because I don’t want to reread these books for sure. 😜
  5. You can definitely hone your skimming skills.

    • I learned this in the days of my schooling. 😏 Okay, but really, the ability to skim through a novel—or in this case, a book about Nazis—is invaluable!
    • So yep, my skimming skills are getting a run for their money, but so far it’s been working pretty well.
  6. Obsessing over details is actually a good thing.

    • I’ve never been super detail-oriented, but I have to learn to be, as I’ve said before.

So yep, that’s kind of what I’m going through right now. Here are some pictures of my “process,” haha.

Trying to research … buddy keeps getting in the way.

Too handsome to kick out of my seat, though.

Lots of books … mostly fiction! Most of my nonfiction hasn’t arrived yet, sadly.

Facebook distracting once again. 😉

My bibliography (pages 1 + 2, that is)

Another angle, haha.

Research pile!

Most of my research books haven’t arrived yet, but I’ve got a bit of a pile started! Mostly fiction “for research.” 😉 Okay, not for research … but you know. For reasons. Because I want to read them. 😅

TTFN!

~Kellyn Roth~

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p.s.

If you’re a writer, do you research for your novels? Why or why not? What kind of stuff do you usually have to research? If your search history littered with weird things? If you write any historical, what sort of things do you generally have to look up?

Showing 35 comments
  • Isabel Eleison
    Reply

    Eurghhh I usually dislike nonfic as well -_- I have found very few nonfic that I like. Thanks for the tips 🙂 Good luck with all that research-can’t wait for the book!

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      SAME! Ughhh … nonfiction. *sigh* Absolutely! It’s going to be a very … intense book. What with the crazy (… yeah, I should start saying mentally ill or something …) Nazi Youth Member and the spy and the other girl … it’s gonna be a wild ride! 😛

  • A. Kaylee
    Reply

    I’ve never been able to stand nonfiction except on WWII and other things I am passionate about! I can see how hard that is!

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      Yep, I’m the same! I do love some good old farm books (I know I’m a weirdo haha), but otherwise, I won’t generally read it. 😛

  • Julia @Lit Aflame
    Reply

    See. This is why I don’t do all that real life stuff – too scared I’ll get something incorrect XD (and y’know…If I tried to do any serious research I’d get lost somewhere on the way – distractions are everywhere – lol).

    And yeah… I find a lot of nonfiction boring too…. But I’ve read a ton of biographies – some are actually interesting (like God’s Smuggler), others are….meh. Non-biography nonfiction that I’ve found actually good was “He’s Making Diamonds” by S.G. Willoughby.

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      Haha! I don’t struggle so much with reality, but … writing books? Ugh. Why is research so hard. 😛

      Yes, I liked He’s Making Diamonds! Though to be fair I haven’t read it yet really – I read parts of it while formatting, lol. 😛 God’s Smuggler was good!

  • Julia
    Reply

    One of the reasons I love fantasy is because I don’t have to research it 😛 Except then I have trouble keeping track of all the world facts I’ve made. Oops.

    Also, good luck with all your researching!! It looks pretty tough.

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      Haha! Right!? That is a special sort of awesome right there. But yess, I’m the same way! And I can’t really get my “worlds” across to the page, so my fantasy ends in disaster. 😉

      It isn’t fun for sure, but I SHALL TRIUMPH!

      • Julia
        Reply

        Yeah I just have to keep scrolling back up and be like SO WHAT WAS THE NAME OF THAT ONE CHARACTER?? (I never remember her… 😂)

  • Amie
    Reply

    I’m one of those blasted peeps that can’t decide on an ice cream flavor…And I love non-fiction, but I loved your perspective on this. It made me laugh. 😂

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      LOL! Well, you’re still awesome. 😉 I’m just one of those people who gets bored wayyyy too easily. 😛

      • Amie
        Reply

        Totally understand, but when ice cream is in question…🧐

  • Jo (TL&HD)
    Reply

    The accursed nonfiction! *groans* I actually have to read some for this dystopian novel I’m writing and it’s no fun. *grumbles* Also that research pile. *dead*

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      Haha, yeppp … it’s not fun. 😛 And I have more than that coming! *sigh*

  • Abigail Harder
    Reply

    I have a love/hate relationship with nonfiction books. I have read some really good ones, but also some that I despise. 😂 That is quite the pile of research books. I need to get on top of researching for my WW2 book that I am currently writing too. Lol, research is just so much “fun”. 🙄😂

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      I generally dislike it, though there have been a few exceptions, haha! And yep, I have quite a ways to go … lots of books are still coming!

      • Abigail Harder
        Reply

        Yikes, how many books are you getting to total for research?

        • Kellyn Roth
          Reply

          Umm … let me see. 23 if you count fiction!

          • Abigail Harder
            Reply

            Wow, that is impressive!! I cannot wait to read your book, Kellyn! 🙂

  • Merie Shen
    Reply

    UGH Research is a pain sometimes. Unless I’m researching something that I love, like… okay actually, never mind. Even researching about gemstones or fairytales will make me want to cry. xD

    Still, WWII is a fascinating era and I CAN’T WAIT to see what you come up with! 😀

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      Haha! Yeah, right? It’s not loads of fun most of the time. (Though I did have an odd fascination with the Spanish flu one year.) (Don’t ask.)

      Yes, it is great! Aw, thanks so much!

  • Arwen Telcontar
    Reply

    Ah, yes, research… I agree, nonfiction tends to be horribly boring. It all depends on how much of an imagination the author has.
    Personally, watching movies is the best kind of research. For WWII, you could just watch “The Sound of Music”, “Indiana Jones”, and “Captain America”, and you’d be all set! 😂

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      LOL! Right, sure, that’s gonna be PERFECTLY accurate, right? 😛 I do love those movies, so I should be good … 😉

      • Arwen Telcontar
        Reply

        Totally accurate. There’s just so much they don’t put in the history books, you know? 😂
        In all seriousness, though, have you ever seen “The Book Thief”? It takes place in WWII and seemed to be pretty well researched.

        • Kellyn Roth
          Reply

          No, I’ve not! I keep meaning to, though. It comes highly recommended, haha!

  • Mandalynn
    Reply

    I was told about this site by a couple friends and thought I’d stop by.
    I just want to say I feel extremely sorry for you that you don’t like nonfiction *cries* You don’t know what you’re missing out on!!!
    But anyway… You mentioned the Hitler Youth so I just though I would recommend you read Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow. I really like it and learned a lot from it. It reads sort of like a story.

    And hey, if you have the time you should listen to this podcast: https://soundcloud.com/lamplighterministries/building-character-one-story-at-a-time-pt2?in=lamplighterministries/sets/fastened-like-nails-podcast

    but start at minute 8:53 I just thought of it from what you discussed in this post.

    See ya!

  • My Life as a Photographer
    Reply

    Love! ❤️

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