By day I work 60 hour weeks. At night I am a devoted father and husband to the world's greatest family. Somewhere in the non-existent time between the two, I am a writer. Join me from the beginning as I chronicle my adventures to become a successful published author.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 85 - The Art of Research, Part I - Writing Wisdom

I have chosen the Art of Research as the topic of the Writing Wisdom series for the next several weeks or months, depending on how in depth I go. Today, we will establish my credentials in the field. Next week, we'll discuss an overview of the role of research in any genre, followed by more in depth techniques.

If you don't know already, I am actually a historian. Not a hobbiest armchair one who picked it up on a whim. I mean one who went to school for it (technically, I still have five courses left, which will take another year because of how rare my courses are offered). And I'm not just any historian, I am a historian of the ancient Near East. That's the Middle East in today's parlance. I have a biblical Hebrew focus, so much of my research involves being able to magically find an obscure book or scroll written 2,000 years ago. In archaic Hebrew or Aramaic. A lot of these have only been photographed once. In the 1930's. And there are only two copies left in the world. To make it more fun, much of the research I have to address is in German. I don't read much German... Did I mention I have to write 30-50 page papers heavy in original research and obscure sources? If I don't have at least five footnotes a page, I am slacking. Fifteen is about right.

I have often times spent weeks in secure areas of libraries that few people get access to, rummaging through special collections and books that no one has touched for decades. I've done that until 3:00 AM for several weeks at once. That is not an exaggeration, it's the sad reality about what I think an exciting night entails.

I mention all of this so you know one basic reality: I know how to research. I have written some, in my opinion (and that of professors) incredible and in some cases game changing papers (which I've been encouraged to submit for publication to top academic journals and still have not...). Further, I am a news and information junkie. I spend 3-5 hours a day reading CNN, Fox, MSNBC, HuffPo, and more. I read all sides, all o the time, and my wife really wishes I overcame my addiction. And I read a lot of early American and LDS history.

Although there are many people more qualified than I in research, I feel fairly secure in saying that as a percentage of the population, they are few. And they don't write blogs, they teach at universities when forced to emerge from their libraries. So I am a social nerd.

Thus I have chosen the Art of Research as the topic of the Writing Wisdom series. Tell your friends, because it will be a learning experience for everyone. Including me! I have never tried to convey it in ways that are useful to writers, only to the handful of people who want to find a text hidden in a temperature controlled environment behind multiple layers of security (for the record, lest I make it sound too grand, 90% of the books I need while rare and a few centuries old, are only behind one locked temperature controlled door... the actual historical relics are only needed one or twice a year).

Finally, while I will go into it more next week, my current novel, The Militia, had a full year and a half of research on it before I began writing it. When I took the first ten pages to the LDS Storymakers conference boot camp in April, several people in the group believed that I had been in the military, served overseas, and possibly did something with foreign relations in West Africa based solely on the reading. And I wrote it in one night. Research. It's awesome.


great posting and lots of great information on it, I look forward to the other ones you have coming out! I also am now a follower! Can't wait til the next one! btw, I hope your dad is doing ok. I think about him often, please tell him I say hi. =0)

oh and get those papers published!!

I will tell him you said hi. He just had a bone marrow transplant two weeks ago and is recovering well, so we are optimistic.

I actually worry about publishing the papers. In biblical research, a lot off it involves dissecting and analyzing the scriptures, saying what's myth, what's cultural, who wrote what, etc. Unfortunately, some people believe that this means I don't believe the bible to be inspired, which is false. They can't separate however that when I show the Israelites of the 8th century BC believed "X", I am not saying that what they believed it true or that LDS or modern Christians should believe it. So for now, I hold off until I am more confident in how it may affect me in the future.:-)

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