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Before we begin, practice healthy creative habits: Clear your space of clutter, set aside some time to focus and spend 2-3 minutes doing your Daily Free Writing before you begin. See Lesson 2 for more about DFW.

I really push the research aspect although I know the bulk of that work will come during the writing process. Research is so critical but it’s one of the most common mistakes I see when I read people’s first draft of their manuscript. They might write about their year of travel but it’s completely limited by just what they personally saw, what they knew in that moment and their perceptions. It’s almost impossible to pull off unless your writing is so fantastic, it blows everyone away. The research piece adds those beats of, “Oh wow, cool, I didn’t know that…” as a sort of breadcrumb trail through your narrative.

Every, single time you make a claim with authority, you should research that point. Make sure you’re right and you know why you’re right or conversely, know why other people are wrong.

This is the last we’ll talk about research, but…

You will only use about 10-30% of your research in the final book. If you decide to use famous quotes in your chapter headings–aim to get 2-3 times more lined up then you’ll actually need. If you’re researching historical facts to support your story telling, you might learn a lot about a place but only a few details will make it into the final book. Just to give some perspective, my book had tons of research, with hundreds of clipped articles and studies in Evernote. But in my final endnotes (not all books will have this, but mine did), I only cited about 80 sources. I had entire interviews that got cut from the manuscript. So whatever amount of research you think you need to do, go ahead and double or triple that because you will need that flexibility as you start writing this book.

Saving research in Evernote

On the fourth day, I talked about using Evernote. If you haven’t gotten into that habit, now is the time to start. You’ll want to sign up for a free account, install the plugin for your browser and every time you run across something interesting you’ll want to “clip” it and save it to your notebook.

However, now that we’ve worked on our research for our book, no doubt you have some major themes you know will need to be worked on for your book. So what you’ll want to do now is to consider creating a way to organize that.

Using Notebooks in Evernote

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If you’ve been using Evernote, you’re probably familiar with this screen. On the left sidebar is the Notes section, but just below that is Notebooks. Notebooks are an easy way to break out different areas of research. You might have one for historical, one for science, one for famous quotes and one for potential interviews. Whatever it is, you can use a different Notebook for each one to gather information. (I like to clip the about pages of people I want to interview… it reminds me who they are and it’s linking to a way to contact them.)

Here’s what my notebooks look like (my book was originally called “Found in Translation” and because I use Evernote for other projects, I used FOUND to remind me it was for the book.)

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I had almost 800 notes. I also later created a FOUND-processed notebook, just as a way to start removing things that I had already used or decided not to use (that’s why some of the notebooks are now empty, but the processed folder has 388 notes). It’s really easy to move notes between notebooks.
Finally one last trick for research…

Knowing your areas of research is huge! Now that you know this, you can start setting up some passive alerts for those topics. For example, if you’re writing about a topic as an authority, you’ll want to know what other people are saying about that topic. Here are some places to look:

New York Time articles (you have to log in but it’s free). You can create an alert based on keywords or topic category. Click into “Create News Alert” to set your options.
Google Alerts for keywords…

– Facebook groups about certain locations (expat groups can be helpful if you’re researching the location your book takes place in…)

– Finding experts on Twitter and following them…

– Follow the industry events for your book topic, for example, if there’s a big conference like SXSW.

– Specific Magazines: Some magazines will let you subscribe to just a single category of posts. For example, I tracked the science of Language Acquisition by subscribing to Science Daily (which just does basic reporting on new studies when they come out) so every time there was new research I’d get an email.

Then when you get the email, you can open the link, decide if it’s relevant and clip it to Evernote. It only takes a few seconds of your day, and you’ll have a boatload of things to look at when you’re writing, so get started now!

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1Daily Free Writing
2Set up Evernote (if you have not!)
3Create some alerts and sources for research - aim to have at least 5-10 sources set up and somewhat automated (you receive alerts or your follow them on FB or Twitter).