Research in fiction writing: Thoughts on popular writing books, part 2

Now that I’ve read through a list of “academic” writing books, I’m working my way through a set of more popular writing books in search of information on the role of research in fiction writing. Rather than devote whole posts to each individual book, I’ll just be sharing some brief thoughts as I go along.

Today, I’m taking a look at How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman and No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty. I’m also briefly revisiting On Writing by Stephen King.

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How COVID is changing my online course this spring

This spring, I’ll be teaching a section of my eight week credit-bearing information literacy course starting in late March. This is the first time I’ll be teaching this course in over a year thanks in part to the chaos of COVID and also my sabbatical this fall, which will soon be coming to an end.

Because I was on sabbatical and focusing on my research during what would normally be the planning period for spring, my plan this year was just to teach the course the exact same way I did last spring. Back then, I’d rearranged the course a little from previous iterations and used a new version of my usual annotated bibliography project that was reasonably successful. So I decided that I would make minimal changes this time around in order to squeeze as much as research and writing time as possible out of my remaining sabbatical.

In some ways, that was easy to do. My course has been fully online for quite a while now so there was nothing I needed to do to convert the materials I already had to the new situation. Teaching the course this year should have been an easy copy and paste job. Easy peasy.

The problem with this is that I’ve never been very good at copying and pasting my course from semester to semester. I’m always making changes. Between fall and spring, these are usually small changes. I generally save bigger changes for the fall semester so that I have the summer to plan them.

But now a whole year has passed since I last taught this course and the world looks very different from the way it did last time I did this. So while a copy and paste from last year to this year would have been possible, it didn’t feel right. I ended up doing yet another overhaul.

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Research in fiction writing: What problem is this investigation trying to solve (for librarians)?

Image by succo from Pixabay

So I’m at a point now where I’m starting to put the findings from my investigation research in fiction writing into article form and I ran into something of a problem when I started writing the abstract.

There are a lot of ways to write abstracts, but the model I like to use is one where you state the motivation for the research, the specific problem you were trying to solve with your research, your approach to the study, and your results. In this case, I knew all about the approach I took and what my results were. I even knew what my motivation was. The trouble was, I didn’t know what problem I was trying to solve other than that there was a gap in the existing literature and I wanted to fill it.

When it comes to library and information science scholarship, wanting to fill a gap in knowledge often isn’t enough to make your research important and publishable. It also has to be useful in some way. That’s because librarians pursue research not only to learn more about how people find, evaluate, and use information but also to find ways to improve their services, tools, and collections. Contributing something that can help prove the value of libraries to those with control over our budgets (and our existence) is generally seen as much more important than pursuing knowledge for the sake of it.

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Research in fiction writing: Thoughts on popular writing books, part 1

Image by Kranich17 from Pixabay

Now that I’ve read through a list of “academic” writing books, I’m working my way through a set of more popular writing books in search of information on the role of research in fiction writing. Rather than devote whole posts to each individual book, I’ll just be sharing some brief thoughts as I go along.

Today, I’m taking a look at The Art of Fiction by John Gardner, Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, and revisiting Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

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Guest post: Jesi Buell on how to use research in creative writing

Image by Richard Khuptong from Pixabay

Note from Allison: For a while now, I’ve been hoping to feature guest posts from authors who are interested in talking about the role of research in their creative work. Jesi Buell has been kind enough to take the leap and be my first guest author! I’m really excited to feature her creative research tips. If you are a writer who would be interested in penning a similar guest post, I would love to hear from you.

Hello – my name is Jesi Buell and I am an instructional design and web librarian at Colgate University. I also write under the name ‘Jesi Bender’ and run a small press for experimental literature called KERNPUNKT Press. My own writing varies from poetry and flash to novels and plays (I’ve written three novels – one published in 2019 called The Book of the Last Word – and a play coming out later this year called KINDERKRANKENHAUS). I wanted to share some tips on how I use research in my writing and creative endeavors.

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Thoughts on “Creating Learning Outcomes from Threshold Concepts”

As I’m working on some new and exciting research projects, I’ve found myself going back to a few of my earlier works and reflecting on how my thinking has changed in the time since I wrote them. I thought I would share some of this here partly because I still get asked about some of these articles from time to time and partly because I think it’s valuable to show how things can change as you grow as a scholar.

So today I’m taking a look at an article I wrote called “Creating Learning Outcomes from Threshold Concepts for Information Literacy Instruction,” which was published in College & Undergraduate Libraries in 2017.(1)

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Research in fiction writing: Takeaways from academic writing books

Image by johns480 from Pixabay

So it took me a couple of months but I’m finally finished with the “academic” leg of my investigation into whether and how writing books talk about the role of research in fiction writing. Reading about the same subject over and over again can be exhausting and I was definitely getting a bit, um, cranky there at the end. (Actually, I was already a bit cranky at the start if you go back to my rant about The Way of the Writer, which was literally the second book I read.)

Now that it’s over and I have a little distance from it, I wanted to share a few quick takeaways.

Note: This post contains vague spoilers for The Haunting of Bly Manor and The Haunting of Hill House for some reason.

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What I’m reading: January 2021

Now that I’m officially on sabbatical, I’ve been doing a lot more reading than usual. Rather than devote an entire post to reflections on each of these items, I thought I’d share some thoughts on them in smaller, bite-sized pieces.

(Note: The following contains spoilers for A Wilderness of Error, both the TV series and the book, the podcast Morally Indefensible, the Bridgerton TV series and Russian Doll)

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Research in fiction writing: Thoughts on The Half-Known World

After reading 10 popular books on creative writing in search of information on the role of research, I’ve now shifted my focus to a set of more “academic” books that are specifically about fiction writing. I say “academic” because, of all of the books on a very long list of recommended creative writing books that I found, these are the ones that are a) about fiction writing specifically and b) owned by the libraries at 20 institutions with highly respected creative writing programs at either the undergraduate or graduate level.

Today I’m taking a look at the last book on my list for this project: The Half-Known World by Robert Boswell

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