Monday, January 18, 2016

The Tools I Need to Use

I’m working on my next nonfiction book right now.  It was announced in Publishers Weekly:

 "Mary Cash at Holiday House has bought at auction Buried Lives: Slaves of George Washington's Mount Vernon by Carla Killough McClaffertyBuried Lives will bring to light the forgotten lives of the slaves owned by Washington for a middle-grade audience. Publication is tentatively set for fall 2017; Susan Cohen at Writers House did the deal for North American rights."

I must admit it:  I’m thrilled that the book was sold at auction!!  Yippee.  It is every author’s dream that their book will be sought after by more that one editor at the same time.   I’m also thrilled that my new book baby will be brought into the world with Mary Cash at Holiday House.  It is a good fit. 

My writers group waiting with me as the auction details were coming in.
(Annmarie, Loriee, Monica, me, and Darcy)

So now, a whole new level of work begins for me.  I move into high gear on the research.  In thinking about what sort of tools I use for this phase in a book, I use both new and old methods of research.

The “new” method of research comes first.  Today, so many primary source documents are online that it has simplified some types of research.  For example a few years ago, to do the type of research I do, would have required traveling to research libraries and taking pages of handwritten notes of details taken from primary sources.  Today, many documents are online.  Often I can find the actual document, and a transcript of that document.  History at my fingertips!  In the comfort of my pajamas I print them out.   

Then comes the “old school” method.   Once I’ve printed out the research, I read through them, mark them up, and make margin annotations.   Then I create a very fancy retrieval system I like to call---wait for it-------file folders.   Then I put the file folders in a plastic tub.  Then I use another fancy-schmancy method to separate sections of folders:  a file folder turned on end with post-it notes.  It’s about as old school as it gets.
My fancy filing system.  I use post-it notes to simplify things if I change the file names.
 The beauty of writing is that there isn’t one right way to do anything.  Each author works on their craft in their own unique way. 

Carla Killough McClafferty


JoAnn Early Macken said...

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only file folder fan, Carla! Congratulations on your very exciting news. I hope you'll keep us posted on the progress (& methods) of your research.

Caroline McAlister said...

Extremely helpful to see how someone else organizes research. I print out documents and put them in binders. I wish I could convince my students of the usefulness of printing out all research.

Carmela Martino said...

Congrats on your wonderful news, Carla. I'm so glad you have a writer's group to share in your joy! And thanks for this glimpse into your process. I, too, combine old and new techniques when I do research, whether for fiction or nonfiction.