7 Ways For Writers To Avoid Getting Overwhelmed By Research

7 Ways For Writers To Avoid Getting Overwhelmed By Research


In this post, we look at seven ways for writers to avoid getting overwhelmed by research.

When we write, we do want to keep our facts straight, but it can also be very overwhelming to know which facts are important to the story and which are just interesting to you.

If you do plot, it will be a little easier to know that from the beginning. If you are still exploring your novel, it may be difficult. Let’s look at how you can make doing research easier for yourself.

7 Ways For Writers To Avoid Getting Overwhelmed By Research

1. Don’t Wait To Start

Unless you are ‘writing what you know’ you will need to do research, but don’t use it as an excuse to put off the writing. You’ll only know what you need to add once you have put the story on the page.

2. Choose A Viewpoint Character

A viewpoint character acts as a filter for what you put on the page. This filter helps you to choose which facts are important to the story. Note I said, important to the story, not details that are simply interesting.

3. Set Limits

Just like the viewpoint character filters what information you should include, any limits that you place on the setting and duration of the story that will help you to decide what information is important. A timeline will also help.

4. Fact Or Fiction

Always remember that you are writing fiction and there is leeway, but it is good to get it right. If you are struggling to find information about certain events or a town perhaps using a fictional setting or event will help you.

5. Facts Are Anchors

You can use real events to anchor your story. A well-known setting or event can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you if you need to shave off a few hundred words but also find what is new or interesting to your character in the familiar setting.

6. Show

Yes, this again. When you find yourself writing long paragraphs listing facts and research details try showing them instead. Don’t explain how the first motorised cars worked rather show us the characters cranking the handle to start the car and running to jump in behind the wheel.

7. Writing Days And Research Days

Research is not writing. Decide what you are going to do on that specific day and make sure you get the writing, as well as the research, done. The internet is a black hole that will swallow all your writing time.

The Last Word

It really is a catch-22.  You need the research to write, but you need to write to know what research you need. Try doing a bit of both every day or every week and don’t get too carried away, stick to the information that moves the plot forward, because sometimes you need to ‘kill your details’ too.

I hope these tips help you to avoid getting overwhelmed by research.

Must-read: 6 Practical Research Techniques For All Writers

Top Tip: Find out more about our workbooks and online courses in our shop.

Mia Botha by Mia Botha

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This article has 1 comment

  1. Shannon O'Hara

    It’s always hard to get over being overwhelmed when researching. Sometimes, I just have to take a breath and then type whatever comes out to get ideas for research which is only one of the hurdles.

    These tips will definitely help me continue to write. Thanks!

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