Over the last year, we have heard more and more about Nonfiction. It goes hand in hand with common core.
I mean, come on, how hard can nonfiction really be? HARD! Not to discourage you from writing nonfiction, after all it is my love. But, you must be prepared for all of the work that comes along. If you have ever written a regular story, you know that the revision process can take forever. With nonfiction the research can take even longer.
Let's assume that you know WHAT you want to write about, here is how to begin your research process.
1. Get an account with easybib.com, it's free. As you look for your resources, keep a running tab in easybib. Every website, news article, magazine, book, person, email, museum, gravestone, birth certificate, death certificate or speech about your subject MUST be cited. It will take you ten times longer to go back and enter than it will while you work.
2. Google everything about the subject and print off each document.
3. Visit www.uspto.gov and search for basic marks about my subject. Now, family members can trademark different aspects of the characters life or different events. You don't want to infringe.
4. I highly suggest a membership with http://newspaperarchive.com. This site maintains newspapers dating back to the 17th century.
5. Buy every book that you can get your hands on about the subject.
6. Call local historical societies in the town/state/country where the event happened, person lived or person is buried. Listen to the stories, learn what these people know. Ask if there are any monuments or museums dedicated to the person or event. Finally ask if they know of any descendants still living in the area. If the answer is no, move on to number 7.
7. Get a membership with ancestry.com. Enter the information that you know about the person. Look for relation, death certificates, marriage certificates, US census records. If the person came to America, you can look at the manifest from ships that came through Ellis Island, this will list who the person was accompanied by.
8. Put all of this into a box and begin reading. Sort through what you feel is relevant and what may not fit into your story.
9. Go back to the internet and search what life, weather and other historical events were happening during this time. Discover want it TRULY felt like, what life was like or what events may have caused this outcome.
10. Visit the site. Whether tracking off to Boone, Iowa, Patterson, New York or Moscow Russia. Be there. Try to walk in the shoes of the people you are writing about.
Finally, it is important to keep all of this together. This will assist your publisher's fact checker as well as help the illustrator relate to the story.
Kristen is agented by Kendra Marcus of Bookstop Literary and has some exciting non-fiction picture books in the works. She runs the WOW - Nonficpic Facebook annual contest and ongoing group here, and also has a ton of non-fiction resources on her website here. Besides reading, writing, researching, and revising, Kristen is also an avid zebra lover and lives in Florida with her rocket scientist husband and a menagerie of animals.
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