The Card Catalog Taught Me Everything I Know 🗄


Or, How I Research.

Once upon a time, my mother began taking me to visit to our local library. It was fascinating place to my young self. There was a round room where they put the new releases. It was filled with old brown furniture on casters, and retirees reading the newspaper.

They had a section of vinyl records and a reference room with phone books from all over the United States.

And of course, they had card catalogs: once an iconic object in libraries, now replaced by computers (that’s not a bad thing). That’s how I learned how to research, using these quaint, yellowing, typewriter ink-smudged, alphabetically categorized units of information.

Nowadays I just use Google, like everybody else. I have not yet traveled to any particular location to do on-site research for my writing, mainly because much of my fiction is set in a fantasy world. 😜

Sometimes I incorporate some of my personal experiences in my writing, such as school or work. But usually, I read about the things I’m writing about. For The Brumal Star, I looked up:

  • the life cycle of acorns
  • month-by-month pregnancy symptoms
  • history of law enforcement
  • seasonal temperatures in a temperate zone
  • pipistrelle facts
  • spelunking
  • how to start a campfire
  • rooks, ravens, and other corvids
  • wild dog attacks
  • the history of crossbows

a bit how I write, part 2


  • How do you know when a book is finished?

Sometimes I don’t! Since I’ve only officially finished one book and a few short stories, and I’m in the process of writing five(!?) others, I’m not exactly well-versed in bringing a book to a meaningful close.

I really only know how I would like a book to end, or what I’d like to see happen to the story and the characters. For me everything’s a work in progress, including the conclusion sometimes.

  • Do you imagine movie stars in the film version of your books while you write.

Of course! That’s partly what I use Pinterest for. I have boards for almost every writing project I’m working on. I have world-building boards for setting, wardrobe, weapons, and characters.

You can see some of my boards here.

A bit on how I write, part 1


Taken from a questionnaire on How You Write.

  • Do you write in longhand or at a computer?

I usually write using my laptop. It’s where I keep the bulk of my writing files, but I do still have some of them on my desktop. I got the laptop so I could take it with me if things ever get too noisy in my building or if I feel like going to the library and working there.

I also have a bunch of notebooks I write in. The Brumal Star‘s outline and world building was done in a series of notebooks. Sometimes I like the feeling of writing in longhand with different colored Sharpies. I also like the smell of Sharpies, which is a topic for a totally different post.

  • Do you create a detailed outline, or just start writing?

I’ve tried outlining in a few different  ways. I’ve done the traditional setup, like this:

I. main idea

a. blah blah

  1. more blah blah
  2. even more blah blah

And I’ve tried doing it the “Twelve Sentences” method, which I had varying degrees of success with.

What work best for me is to write a humongous idea dump at the beginning of my document and break it into section within chapter headings.

I tend to edit as I go along, which “they” tell you not to do, but it works for me.