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Research On the Run
by Kathryn Lay
How do you keep dozens of queries and
manuscripts in the mail, homeschool a 4th grader, help run a adult education
school, teach an online writing course, become an officer in a writer's group
and stay involved in a critique group? With all that, how is there time for
researching new ideas and markets? It can be done. I do all of the above and I'm
not insane yet.
I reserve most of my free time at home for
actual writing, studying markets through the web, and preparing queries and
manuscripts for mailing. I have little time for reading and studying magazines.
But, as with most of us now, I am on the run for myself or my family and have
learned to catch research moments whenever possible.
1. Waiting Room Research.
There's an old joke about the dates of
magazines in doctor's offices, but that isn't always true. A few months ago
during my daughter's dentist appointment, I studied a half dozen recent issues
of Highlights for Children, Parenting, and Country
While my daughter had her hair cut, I looked
through two of the most recent issues of Family Circle,
Child, and Seventeen. I wrote down topics they'd covered,
columns that were written by different writer's each month, and email
addresses for short quips and ideas.
I carry a notebook to all appointments, then
return home to put my market information into my idea notebook.
An article title caught my eye while waiting
for a haircut appointment for myself. It sparked an idea and by the time it
was my turn, the first draft of the article was written. I rewrote it that
night, emailed it to a publication I'd worked with, and had a sale the next
2. Grocery Research.
There's nothing more frustrating than waiting
in long grocery store lines on a busy shopping day. Here, you will definitely
find the newest issues available of magazines.
Because editors can move up or out, I don't
rely on old issues to give me that information. At the grocery store I can
check the latest issue's masthead. I can get addresses I've lost. Or check out
new looks and sections of issues.
3. Vacation Research.
Vacation is for rest and relaxation. But while
you are away, make sure and pick up brochures and pamphlets of historical,
fun, and interesting towns and sites. If you have time, check the visitors
bureau or Chamber of Commerce for brochures or inside information on less
well-known sites or local stories. When you arrive in a new city and everyone
needs a bathroom break, find the visitors bureau and browse while you
Many magazines welcome interesting travel
information. Or perhaps, you'll want to have a story or novel set in this
place you have visited and fallen in love with.
Visiting the beach in Galveston, Texas gave me
a sudden idea for a short story. I asked the hotel clerk for a bit of
information, made a local call to the historical society, and quickly had
ideas for an article, a short story and a children's
4. Fly-by Research
Stuck sitting in the airport? If you're
flying, you may be prepared for a wait and for your trip with lots of writing
projects. But what if you're picking up a friend and the plane's been delayed
an hour? Or you're on an unexpectedly long layover between flights?
You can look at magazines in the shops, but
you can also look over out-of-town newspapers. See any freelance-written
sections? How about the Op-ed editor's name?
5. A Friend's Research
Sometimes while visiting a friend, I've found
they don't want my help in the dinner preparations. I sometimes use the time
to look over magazines they subscribe to that I don't. I visit with their kids
and find out what they're reading or interested in doing
6. Storytime Research
When my daughter was younger, I often took her
to library storytimes. No parents allowed. She enjoyed the time with other
kids and I was able to spend a quick 30 minutes of time researching in
reference books I couldn't check out, online (before I was hooked up to the
internet myself), and studying the variety of magazines.
7. Kid's Activity Time Research
My daughter has almost always been involved in
some activity, whether gymnastics, tae-kwan-do, an art class, or drama class.
I grab issues of magazines, information I've downloaded off the internet, or a
market guide I haven't had time to study and take them with me.
For 30 minutes to an hour, my daughter
tumbles, kicks, draws, or acts. I find a soda and a quiet corner of the
building and research. I can make notes, uninterrupted by my daughter, the
phone, television, or housework.
Research for writers is necessary. Whether for
market information or writing information, it often takes away from the rare
times available to actually put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. But if you
take advantage of those mountains of lost minutes waiting, you'll be rewarded
and the time will fly.
© Copyright 2000, Kathryn Lay
Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through firstname.lastname@example.org
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