I attended my local SCBWI (Western NY region) conference yesterday and WOW! Our local organizer did a fantastic job and found phenomenal speakers, starting things off with nonfiction writer Carla McClafferty. Yeah, so what’s in that for you, the fiction writer? Have you considered that you should be keeping a bibliography of your novel research as you go? Let me try to convince you.
1) Publishers are reducing their editorial staff, and editors don’t have time to fact check. They might ask you where you got your facts. You might know from lots of background reading that the summer of 1903 was unusually cold in Boston, but would you remember where you read that if an editor asked?
2) Time spent organizing on the front end saves time in the long run. Do you want your fast drafting to screech to a halt every time you can’t remember something you read about 1903 Boston?
3) Online content can disappear for various reasons. If you’re only saving links to helpful articles to refer to “whenever,” you might regret it “whenever” comes.
4) What if you run into a question that can’t be easily answered in research and you’ll need to e-mail an expert? How will you know you’ve done all the research first?
5) When you’re writing, you’ll want sensory details: sights, sounds, smells. They can come from first-person accounts. For example, I’m writing a book that takes place on the Moon. Never having been there, I need to rely on accounts from astronauts on how it smells, etc. It’s great to read these before you start writing, but your bibliography will also take you to those first-person accounts when you need to flesh out descriptions.
Carla recommended keeping a running bibliography as you go, and I’m sold. Call it a map or table of contents to your research if the word bibliography scares you. It’s a tool for you to find what you need, so don’t worry about doctorate thesis rules. Do what works for you.