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All writers conduct research. For some this means poring over records and combing, archives but for many creative writers research happens in the everyday world—when they scribble an observation on the subway, when they travel to get the feel for a city, or when they strike up a conversation with an interesting stranger.
The Art of Creative Research helps writers take this natural inclination to explore and observe and turn it into a workable—and enjoyable—research plan. It shows that research shouldn’t be seen as a dry, plodding aspect of writing. Instead, it’s an art that all writers can master, one that unearths surprises and fuels imagination. This lends authenticity to fiction and poetry as well as nonfiction.
Philip Gerard distills the process into fundamental questions: How do you conduct research? And what can you do with the information you gather? He covers both in-person research and work in archives and illustrates how the different types of research can be incorporated into stories, poems, and essays using examples from a wide range of writers in addition to those from his own projects. Throughout, Gerard brings knowledge from his seasoned background into play, drawing on his experiences as a reporter and a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. His enthusiasm for adventure is infectious and will inspire writers to step away from the keyboard and into the world.
“Research can take you to that golden intersection where the personal meets the public, the private crosses the universal, where the best literature lives,” Gerard writes. With his masterly guidance, anyone can become an expert in artful investigation.
“Gerard fills in a missing part of our thinking about ‘creative writing’: how we inform ourselves. In nonfiction in particular, the writer can only write what she knows, and Gerard offers a map for how to get to a place of knowing. The research for artful writing must itself be artful, he says, and extend beyond Google into other kinds of archive. I love and recommend this book.”
— Ted Conover, author of Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing and Immersion: A Writer’s Guide to Going Deep
“Written in accessible language and filled with anecdotes from a wide range of writers (including Gerard himself), the book takes a subjective, almost holistic approach to the topic of research, presenting the basics with enthusiasm. This makes it ideal reading for college freshman and those new to rigorous research.”
“Many authors writing a book about research would end it once all of the tips and tricks have been covered. Gerard is to be commended for an approach that, from the very first pages, is sensitive to the fact that the point of all of this research is to produce a piece of writing. He closes the book with craft-focused advice on how to breathe life into the research one has done and translating it onto the page. Writers will find time-honored advice about including sensory details, developing narrative voice, and how to write a scene that one has not witnessed firsthand.”
— Hippocampus Magazine
“Is it wrong to use the word ‘thrilling’ for a book about research? Maybe, but as a longtime writing teacher, I am thrilled by the ideas in this book, ideas that push writers away from their small and self-conscious matter and outward into the greater world. Gerard shows us that research and creativity, far from being two opposite poles, are forever intertwined. This book is an inspiring map that leads us into the world of research, a world large enough to hold both romance and hard fact.”
— David Gessner, author of All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West
“What book on research starts with a love song to its subject? This one. Gerard’s voice here is warm and closely engaged—for him, the creative part of research is captivating. He loves it absolutely. The Art of Creative Research includes poetry and fiction as well as narrative nonfiction. It’s a handbook and field guide for all genres and all tech levels, from Moleskine notebooks to smartpens and Evernote.”
— Diana Hume George, author of The Lonely Other: A Woman Watching America and Oedipus Anne: The Poetry of Anne Sexton
“Gerard just flat-out gets it. The Art of Creative Research reveals the true heart of a writer’s quest for knowledge. Gerard understands that research is art and craft. He knows that a great book on research has to cover the philosophical and the practical. He covers technology and humanity, the latest software and the old-school tools. He understands that research is at its core about the human need to know. Every writer, teacher, and student out there ought to read this book. Gerard has done the rarest of things: He’s written an indispensable book.”
— Joe Mackall, author of Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish and cofounder of River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative