Research is an integral part of your novel writing process that does not have to be a tiresome, mentally-draining activity that you ‘simply must do’ in order to write your story.
It can be a thrilling and quite educational experience as your mind absorbs a range of topics and a wealth of information on history, geography, religion, physics, medicine, science, astronomy etc.
So how do you begin your research? First, identify the relevant topics and list them:
Now you know what you need to research, you may ask, Where and how? Where can you obtain material/information you need and how do you go about getting it done?
- Visit Places
Research should never be limited to a seat in front your computer. Allow your research to take you places. Visit museums, historical landmarks/ settlements or a specific town or city… wherever necessary to carry out your research.
When I had begun writing Sans Espoir, I needed information on the layout of a hospital as well as the daily work routine and social interaction that goes on in its rooms and corridors. Of course, I could have simply relied on my own knowledge and memory, but I thought it would be more fun and interesting to visit a nearby hospital. And whilst exploring the building and speaking with patients and hospital staff, I made a video recording, narrating as I went along.
- Talk to others
We learn so much from our everyday interaction with people. Especially if you wish to research a particular culture, ethnic group, town,city etc., you will realize that the personal knowledge, experiences and family history someone would share, can be more valuable and reliable than simply googling it.
- Writing Communities
Writing communities are a definite channel of support when researching information and facts. I remember when I was writing Summer Moments, I needed to research American small town life in the 1980s era. The members of The Writer’s Coffeehouse proved to be invaluable to my research as they were able to share detailed, factual information based on real life events and personal experiences. So why not join a writing community?
- Reading Novels
Hey, writers are readers too! Reading your favourite book by your favourite author can be a form of subconscious research. The information our brain stores whilst we enjoy our leisure reading, filters its way into our pens when a plot, character or setting presents itself as we write.
- Research your research
Yes that’s right. Before using the information you’ve gathered, you need to verify your facts. Always double check your sources and confirm reliability and credibility.
- Be Selective
Of course, when you’re done with all your research, you will need to narrow it down. Edit your collected data and prioritize on how much information is actually needed. You may be surprised that after editing your research, only a few lines may suffice.
Research is ongoing. Throughout the process of writing your novel, you will always have areas that will require research whether it’s as complicated as quantum mechanics or as simple as finding an appropriate synonym.
So never view research as a task. Have fun! It can be a most educationally rewarding, intensely exciting, super adventurous part of your novel writing!
Until next time,
I’ll be collecting memories in distant sands!