Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Neglecting Research

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is neglecting research.
Author:
Publish date:

Everyone makes mistakes—even writers—but that's okay because each mistake is a great learning opportunity. The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them early in the process. Note: The mistakes in this series aren't focused on grammar rules, though we offer help in that area as well.

(75 grammar rules for writers.)

Rather, we're looking at bigger picture mistakes and mishaps, including the error of using too much exposition, neglecting research, or researching too much. This week's writing mistake writers make is trying to write for everyone.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Neglecting Research

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Neglecting Research

On a very basic level, being a writer means you write. Simple as that. Honestly.

But if you want to "find success" as a writer, whether that equates to getting published or becoming a bestselling author or creating social change, then being a writer often means being more than just writing. It means writing, sure, but also editing, revising, connecting, marketing, selling, and researching.

(Publishing FAQs for Writers.)

In fact, researching may be the second most important skill a writer develops after writing. It's the ability to research that helps a writer understand their topics better. In nonfiction, this increased knowledge can establish a writer as an authority on their subject. In fiction and poetry, research can lead to deeper and richer literature.

Research is also the tool writers turn to when they want to improve their abilities in other tasks that help them "find success," whether that means learning how to create a social media following, killer website, submit to agents, or negotiate better freelance rates. The mistake many writers make is to neglect their research.

Agents and editors are used to dealing with very talented writers every day. But sometimes even talented writers miss the mark when it's apparent that they didn't do even the most basic research. If you fall into this camp, here's how to start improving your research skills.

Mistake Fix: Research Your Topic

When it comes to research, I find the best place to start is by listing out what my goals are. This enables me to see what I need to learn to start achieving my goals.

(Simple trick to figuring out if your target audience really exists.)

Here are a few things for you to consider when figuring out your goals:

  • What do you want to write? Break it down as much as you can: Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, screenplay, etc. If you're writing fiction, which fiction sub-genre do you want to write? 
  • What do you want to do with your writing? Do you want to write a book? Do you want to write for magazines? Websites? Or do you want to write for yourself?
  • Are there any skills you want to develop? Do you want to learn how to make a website? Or how to create a book proposal? Write a query? Connect with other writers and publishing professionals? Improve photography skills?

Once you know your goals, you can start to figure out what you need to research. Here's an example: I want to write a YA fantasy novel that will eventually get published by a major book publisher. Knowing that, here are things I need to research:

  • Successful contemporary YA fantasy novels. I need to find successful contemporary YA fantasy novels and read them. Even if mine is different, it's good to know what is currently working in my genre so that I can explain how mine fits with what's out there and how mine is unique. Writers write, sure, but they also read.
  • Contemporary teen sites/magazines, movies, etc. If I'm going to write for a YA audience, I need to make sure I research my target readers. I can't go off the language that we used when I was a teenager, because I'll sound like my target audience's father.
  • Publishers who publish and agents who represent YA fantasy novels. Once my book is ready to submit, I'll want to research which publishers publish YA fantasy novels (and if I need an agent). In many cases, I may find I need a literary agent to submit my writing, so I'll also need to research agents who represent YA fantasy novels. In both cases, I'll need to research and follow their submission guidelines.
  • How YA fantasy authors promote their work. If I want to promote my YA fantasy novel, it would behoove me to know how to promote it by looking at how other authors in my category have found success. Of course, I can look at how other authors promote their books in a range of categories, but there may be some really obvious things YA fantasy authors do that I can replicate as well.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to research. Just remember that knowledge is power, whether you're finding out how to plot a novel better or write an incredible synopsis. So keep writing, but incorporate a healthy dose of research too.

*****

Increase Your Online Reach with The Magic of SEO

Whether you’re an authorpreneur, a freelancer, or a blogger, this very practical, hands-on course will guide you through the magical optimization process of how to show up on Google so that people can start finding you online. Start optimizing your content with the right keywords and keyphrases today and attract more of the right online readers, customers, and prospects.

Click to continue.

What Is a Plotter in Writing?

What Is a Plotter in Writing?

The world of storytelling can be broken into many categories and sub-categories, but one division is between plotter and pantser. Learn what a plotter means in writing and how they differ from pantsers here.

Waist vs. Waste (Grammar Rules)

Waist vs. Waste (Grammar Rules)

Learn the differences of waist vs. waste on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Bridget Foley: On Writing Psychologically Potent Metaphors

Bridget Foley: On Writing Psychologically Potent Metaphors

Novelist Bridget Foley explains the seed that grew into her latest book Just Get Home and how she stayed hopeful in the face of rejection.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 12

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a six words poem.

What Is a Pantser in Writing?

What Is a Pantser in Writing?

The world of storytelling can be broken into many categories and sub-categories, but one division is between pantser and plotter. Learn what a pantser means in writing and how they differ from plotters here.

Too Seen: The Intimacy of Copy Editing

Too Seen: The Intimacy of Copy Editing

Novelist A.E. Osworth discusses their experience working with a copyeditor for their novel We Are Watching Eliza Bright and how the experience made them feel Witnessed.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: From Our Readers Announcement, Upcoming Webinars, and more!

This week, we’re excited to announce a call for From Our Readers submissions, a webinar on crafting expert query letters, and more!

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 11

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a prime number poem.

Stephanie Dray: On Writing Women's Legacies

Stephanie Dray: On Writing Women's Legacies

Bestselling and award-winning author Stephanie Dray shares how she selects the historical figures that she features in her novels and how she came to see the whole of her character's legacies.