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Researching The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion

Tomorrow my first book idea (but my seventh traditionally published book) will be in the hands of readers! It's The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide

A lot of you have asked about the research process for this book. This book was a bit unique because of the heavy emphasis of Laura Ingalls Wiler's Little House books. I needed to know them inside and out. AND I needed to know specifically when plot turns, events, and even word uses happened within a specific book. 


In this blog post I just want to show you how I used the Little House books within my research. My research went far beyond the fictionalized books, but they were the backbone of The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion, so that's today's focus. 


Throughout my research I read each of the nine Little House books at least three times. (Of course, this doesn't count my previous pleasure reading and listening to the books.) During these readings I took some basic notes for myself. Many chapters were read several more times to answer my own questions and help me to understand certain passages.


Please note: If you are reading this blog post in an email, you may not be able to see all images or click on links unless you go to the blog by clicking the title of today's blog post. 


My Charts

I created a chart for each of the Little House books. I took hand-written notes on each of the charts. (Ideally I would have converted these to typed files, but I never got around to that.) 


You'll likely notice I could (should?) have made the charts larger to allow room for more notes, but this worked for me for the most part. (I had additional notebooks for my research process, too. These charts were just for the basics.)


Want a closer look? 


I'll show you, but only if you don't comment on my handwriting. :) 


Now, I'll explain a bit. 


The image above shows a photograph of the first two chapters of notes from The Long Winter. Notice the fold at the bottom of the image? That's because I needed my notes to be portable. I typically kept 1-2 chart papers in the book I was reading so it'd be handy. So one piece of paper, front and back, covered eight chapters. 

Chart Note Details

I noted numbers 1, 2, and 3 in red for you. An explanation of each: 


1- The abbreviated title. Here it says, "Winter" for The Long Winter.


2- Across the top of each chart, I included labels of what I wanted to note. Though these did change as I went through the series, the words included here are


Plots & Events

People

Words 

Food

Activities

Places

Others


Then I used the information I collected to develop each chapter. Each chapter in The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion opens with an introduction followed by the section devoted to chapter-by-chapter Dig Deeper information to help the reader further understand the historical context and people. (This is also where I included Fact or Fiction sidebars.)  Next, readers will find activities, crafts, and recipes to Live Like Laura (or Almanzo). With 75 activities in The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion, it was easy to have some easy and some complicated activities. Every chapter ends with House Talk. These are questions to help the reader think more about what they read in the Little House book. 


3- Along the far left of the page is where I wrote each chapter title for the row. (I did type every few chapter titles to make sure I didn't lose track.) 

Hands-On

In addition to books, articles, and on-line research, I also experienced some hands-on research when I visited the Almanzo Wilder Farm. That made my writing richer and even led me to some questions I didn't know I had

Proofreading

During my proofreading process, I returned to the Little House books again and again. Even after drafting the manuscript, I revised a lot. Despite all the marks on this page, this was not an early draft. Some chapters were revised and edited at least 18 times. 


Learn More

Thanks so much for your interest in Wilder Comapnion's writing process. This post only highlights the research directly with the Little House books. (I should write more about my research process on the blog. I do have a video class for those interested in writing nonfiction or for the educational market. I'll probably include one for research soon. If interested in kidlit writing classes, check out KidLit Creatives.) 


I spent loads of time researching to learn more about Laura Ingalls Wilder, pioneer and farm life, and more. My favorite research is always hands-on. This was no different! You might want to check out The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion FAQ. (The posts in this paragraph all link to my blog called Wilder Companion. You may want to explore more about my writing process and research, enjoy exploring this blog (and maybe posts specifically related to research). 


If you want to learn more about my books, presentations, writing, and me, visit my author website at AnnetteWhipple.com.

You Can Help! 

Today is the final day to pre-order! Once you read The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide, I'd love for you to tell others. Personal recommendations matter! Also, if you like the book, would you please review it on Amazon, GoodReads, your blog, or social media? Thank YOU!


If you know a group who would be interested in learning more about writing, reading, science, or Laura Ingalls Wilder, please let them know I'm available for in-person (limited due to COVID-19) and virtual programs! I do author visits as well as professional development and writing workshops.


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