By Nancy Churnin
There’s no getting around it. Research is required for any kind of nonfiction you want to do. It takes a lot of reading and often interviewing to assemble and understand the facts you need to get the story right.
Sometimes the research you do is just enough to support one book. But if you dig deeply enough, you may find you’ve found a well that will sustain other books and projects.
When I’m researching subjects for informational nonfiction, I’ve learned to stay alert for ideas that might be worthy of another story. I keep contact information for the experts I use and stay in touch with them, too. It’s already happened, more than once, that the experts I consulted for one project have provided invaluable help and guidance on others.
When I’m doing narrative biographies, it’s hard not to come across other, related great subjects. In fact, one of my most biggest struggles in writing picture books is maintaining the discipline to discard other characters and themes that fascinate me. The good news, I’ve come to realize, is that I don’t have to discard them! Well, maybe I have to let them go for the book I’m currently working on. But I keep files now on other people of interest and ideas for when I’m ready. The bonus is that if the person is deeply connected to my original subject, chances are some of the resources I already know can help me again.
Another option I have on my to-do list to try is to tackle a middle grade on a subject similar to some of my picture books. As our Nonfiction Ninja middle grade expert, Stephanie Mowry Bearce, likes to remind me, middle grade gives you more room to tell more stories. I’ve dug deep wells of research and resources for my picture book. I’m looking forward to going back to some of these wells to gather up some loved ideas I left behind. I bet you’ll enjoy digging some wells, too.
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The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas and a strong belief in The First Amendment. The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.