Research or Procrastination?

Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Finish the Research Before You Write

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I’m a big fan of doing research. But I’m a fan that I’m tempted to get stuck in the research phase. It’s fun. It’s fascinating. And it’s a reason to put off writing-especially writing something major, like a book.

Are you researching or procrastinating?

If you’re working on a doctoral dissertation based on academic research, then you probably have to finish the research before you start writing. For the rest of us, the boundaries between research and writing are often porous.

Writing a Book Is Not a Linear Process

You might think that the process of writing a nonfiction book is pretty simple: you do all of your research, then you write:

Image of book, with an arrow leading to an image of writing.
Image of book, with an arrow leading to an image of writing.

But for most nonfiction authors, reality looks something more like this:

Images for writing, planning, and researching in a circle, in a loop.
Images for writing, planning, and researching in a circle, in a loop.

If you don’t believe me, look at the data from my Nonfiction Author’s Survey. Hundreds of nonfiction authors responded to this online survey: these are the type of people who typically do of research.

These are their responses to a simple question:

pie chart showing that about 60% of the authors start writing before completing research
pie chart showing that about 60% of the authors start writing before completing research

The smallest wedge (16.5%) of this pie chart represents the authors who researched first, then wrote.

More than 60% started writing while still conducting research. And nearly a quarter they had finished, only to return to the research after starting to write.

Here’s some advice: don’t try to finish the research entirely before drafting, because the act of writing may open up new areas to explore. Start working with that research!

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Author, Writing Coach: Writing about Marketing, Technology, and Writing Itself (very meta). AnneJanzer.com

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