Digested Research and Nonfiction Writing

October 5, 2014 § 3 Comments

Holy_Trinity_B_Falls_3We’ve just run across Julija Šukys’ blog “Writing.Life.” in which she adroitly examines the craft of nonfiction writing, including a recent post that delves into what she defines as the “holy trinity of creative nonfiction” – SCENE + RESEARCH + REFLECTION.  In the snippet below, she discusses the hardest part for many new writers, digesting the research:

For example, I have a student who has recently returned from a life-changing trip to Iceland, and he’s now starting to write about it. His first level of research is complete, but more work lies ahead. The second level and stage of research might mean his going to the library and reading tons about sagas and Icelandic history until this writer has mastered his subject enough to distill and retell with energy and spontaneity. Once this learning starts to belong to him in some way (as family history does) — that is, once he’s achieved a kind of deep learning — then he’ll likely find organic ways of engaging with the necessary literary-historical material and, in turn, of teaching his reader.

When I’m talking about this process of deep learning, I tend to call it “digestion.” You have to let the facts and history work their through you, I say (though I try not to follow the metaphor through to its logical ends, ahem). The research has to become part of you so that you can put it back out onto the page and into the world in a form that won’t fight the story that you’re trying to tell.

Read the full blog post here.




§ 3 Responses to Digested Research and Nonfiction Writing

  • Sammy D. says:

    What an informative resource. Thsnk you!

  • Reblogged this on Karen Morrow and commented:
    Nice article. I’m still ‘digesting’ Flinders Island. I would never have learned the really good bits from the library alone.

  • Reblogged this on Write Through It and commented:
    For me this is true of fiction writing as well. I call it “composting.” When I moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1985, I was working on a novel that was partly set on Martha’s Vineyard, which at that point I knew only as an occasional visitor. Before long I realized I didn’t know nearly enough to write fiction about the place. In my first years I wrote mostly poetry, and feature stories and reviews for the local paper. All of this sharpened my skills at observation and listening, while reflection was going on deep in the background. It was eight years before all this experience had composted enough for me to write the story that became the backstory for my first novel. Which wasn’t the novel I thought I was writing when I moved to the Vineyard.

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