Friday, September 7, 2012

Writerly Research - Guest Post by Fel Wetzig

Encyclopedia Britannica series
It’s an honor to be a guest here on Sharon’s blog, so thank you for having me!

I’m a fiction writer at heart, but as much as I love jumping into a fictional world, I also love jumping into a good encyclopedia. I was one of those kids who would sit at home on the computer reading through an encyclopedia (yes, apparently those people really do exist). I like to know how things work, where ideas come from and how the world has evolved.

Research, luck has it, is also an important part of writing good fiction. It adds depth and believability and can give authors an edge when it comes to crafting new ideas.

Everyone has their own way of researching and some (like me) see it as a treasure hunt. Deciding when to research for your MS and how you’ll keep track of these notes and ideas afterward is an important step for every author.

Deciding When

I wouldn’t recommend scouring piles of encyclopedias in order to get that “lightbulb moment.” It might work, but it might also take years. It’s best to come to the research table with a topic already identified and some kind of question in mind. Knowing what you’re looking for the moment you set out to research will also save you valuable time, which would be better suited for writing the MS.

Whether you begin your research ahead of time, complete it during the process of writing, or wait until the MS is completed to fill in the details, depends on the subject matter and how much the research will impact the flow and outcome of the story (e.g. your characters may need to know that vinegar is needed to kill a kathakano long before you finish the first draft of the manuscript). However, if you consistently find yourself stopping to see how fast a horse can run or how tall the empire state building is, you may find it more beneficial to make a brief note and save the research until the end.

“I’m merely in need of a dinner companion. I have reservations for [insert swanky Chicago restaurant here], but my colleagues backed out and it would be a shame to squander the evening.”

Keeping Track

What are the chances someone will ask you to cite your source in a work of fiction? Probably not likely, but you should still write down enough source information so you can find it again. I keep a file of research sources for every MS I work on. Inevitably, I’ll decide I needed something more or realize I don’t understand my notes. And, what if those notes spark a new idea down the road? You’ll want to remember where the information came from. Start a method that works for you, possibly a research journal, and be consistent.

I remember watching a Master’s of Horror special years ago, and in an interview with Wes Craven he said that the best thing for people who want to write a successful screenplay to do is stop watching movies and read books. While keeping up with the trends in your genre is important, it’s also important to step away and expand your sources of inspiration. Maybe while you’re trying to figure out what a kathakano is, you’ll discover a new tidbit that will launch your next MS.


Fel Wetzig is a paranormal and suspense writer who spends most of the day arguing with the “Peasants,” with whom she shares her blog, aptly named The Peasants Revolt ( On the blog, she shares her experiences and regularly features blog tours, reviews, and interviews with fellow authors. She started writing her first novel while finishing her MA in Public History and since then has begun work on two additional manuscripts. Some of her short stories have been featured on The Book Times (

Social Media;

Twitter: @Scotzig (

Facebook: Fel Wetzig (

Google +: Fel Wetzig (


Thank you for the great post! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who does this... [insert smart science sounding thing here].


  1. I'm reminded of Joey from Friends buying the volume V encyclopedia :)