Having looked at a lot of writerly websites, a lot of authors share their writing tips, which can be amazingly helpful, but one thing I noticed was that a lot of them mention research but don’t necessarily share tips on this aspect of their writing.
Who am I to help, you might ask? It has been a while since I wrote and researched academically for my undergraduate and Masters degrees, but there are some skills you learn along the way that don’t really leave you. With that in mind, I thought I’d start a series of little blog posts to help you in your research, whether that’s for the sciencey-side of murder or for a historical period. So let’s go!
Top Tip Number 1 – Define your search!
This might sound a bit like stating the obvious but stick with me!
The first step in your research should always be to identify what it is you actually want to find out. I’d also recommend doing this in very specific terms. General research on a topic is a great starting place, but I prefer to do this while ideas and plot-lines are simmering away.
Once you start getting to the nitty gritty of plot and character, it pays to think in details. The main reason is that once you start writing your story, you won’t want to spend too much time away from it. There’s nothing worse than stopping and starting every few minutes to look something up!
As you think about your novel, make some notes about specific things you’ll need to research. Even if you’re a panster rather than a plotter, you should have a fair idea about what you need to research.
The next step is to decide how much detail you need to go into. For example, if you’re writing a dinner scene set in the 1850s, you might need to know what the seating arrangements would have been, what food would have been served and what people would have worn. All these sub topics will take some research to find out.
Once you’ve identified all these things, though, you have your research list! And you’ll have more of an idea about the time needed to tackle each thing.
By happy coincidence, that leads us on to tip number 2: Deciding your initial sources but you’ll have to wait for the next exciting installment to find out about that!