6 Ways to Make Your Research Pay

So there I was digging about in dusty files and dingy books looking for information on Loyalists during the American Revolutionary War.  And what did I find?  Soldiers of African origin crudely inoculated themselves against smallpox. This can’t be true, I thought.  But further research verified it.  Immediately I knew that fact had to go into my upcoming historical novel, The Loyalist’s Wife.

And it did.  But then I got to thinking about what else I could do with that bit of information.  So far, I’ve thought of six ways to use it, making my research time pay over and over.

6 Different Ways to Apply Your Research
1.    Put it directly into your novel. My Butler’s Rangers learn how to protect themselves from rampant smallpox from Nat, who tells John and Frank about the procedure and even gets pus from the sick tent for them.

2.    Write a blog post on the history of inoculation.  If you tie your post to your novel, you create buzz for both.

3.    Blog about the real danger of dying in the 1780’s, especially as a soldier.  Another way to approach the information is to do a broader post where smallpox is just one of many dangers soldiers faced.

4.    Write a magazine article about primitive medicine practices being the antecedents of modern-day cures.  A number of health-oriented magazines might be interested in this topic, especially if you hook them with early prevention of smallpox and go on to talk about its virtual eradication in today’s world.

5.    Compile a list of statistics surrounding inoculation and write an article about the controversies surrounding its use today.  Many parents now choose not to inoculate their children, creating great controversy in the medical world.  Present a position on one side of the controversy or the other, or even take a middle ground stance. Perhaps your position might depend on what publication you hope will publish your article.

6.    Write a short story with a twist regarding inoculation.  Maybe the hero disapproves, doesn’t inoculate his kid and the kid’s best friend catches smallpox and dies. With your knowledge of the subject matter, the fiction will ring true and the story may even be a prize winner.

By broadening our thinking we writers can make a little research go a long way.

What research have you done that might translate into a completely different piece?  I mention historicals here, but to what other genre’s research could this technique be applied? Please consider leaving a comment below.


6 thoughts on “6 Ways to Make Your Research Pay

  1. Great ideas Elaine. I give you kudos: for being so motivated; focused and dedicated. You have some great ideas. Thank you for sharing them. I admire your commitment to your writing; your learning and your teaching.


  2. This is why I love research. My problem is it makes me want to find more little tidbits like that until all I’m doing is research or over informing the reader.
    My gut says #1, even though it is a very juicy detail, do it in passing. Chances are they didn’t know too much about it, nor did they have a desire to. Just take the needle to keep from dying like the others.
    That said, I like the #6 and #2.


    • Hi Dale! Welcome to the discussion and thanks for your input. I think you’re right about not burdening the reader with too much detail that isn’t directly related to the plot. If it doesn’t move the story ahead, cut it. Ouch! The pain of it all. Can you see the blood oozing?


      • Not only that, I feel your pain. I`m in the process of removing some GREAT information from my novel. But I have to realise that that is exactly what it is, information, interesting or not.


  3. Oh, you must be a fly on the wall of my office today. I’m starting 34, count ’em, 34, pages in to my novel and just realized that most of those pages don’t have to be woven into the new opening. Epiphany. Now I just have to accept the cutting. So far I opened a new file to put it all in because I can’t bear to just delete it. So hard, eh?


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