Over the weekend I went to the SCBWI conference in Syracuse, NY and felt quite at home with the unofficial theme of the day - research. In the morning, nonfiction writer Clara McClafferty shared her process and the importance of keeping track of your resources from the start. Her tips:
About Internet information - "Print that baby out today." It might not be there the next time you need it. And note the date the site was last updated.
About calling an expert - know what you want and be specific. Don't waste their time.
And the best advice - When in doubt, ask. "I'm all about point-blank asking." (I loved her Arkansas accent)
Even the illustrators Debra Bandelin and Bob Dacey stressed their need to do research in their business. Bob noted that book illustration was 75% research and 25% illustrating. They take photographs, use magazine, book and Internet material, but the best reference is the real thing - that is why they still have 7 hermit crabs after doing a hermit crab book.
In the afternoon, Charlesbridge editor Randi Rivers outlined how to get the most out of your submission. And guess what? She encourages all writers to do their research. Read the kinds of books that you want to write. Know what is already on the market and how your story fits in or is different. Use market guides to choose the right publishing house for you and your manuscript. Go to conferences and meet editors.
It was unusual for a whole conference to have such a strong common thread running through it, but it reflects how important it is for writers to do the leg work. There is more to writing than just writing. And I agree completely.