Monday, July 12, 2010

Research, Research, Research

As writers we are told to write what we know, but we can’t always do that. Of course, this doesn’t mean we are only limited to what we know. Research gives us the knowledge we need to gain plausibility and credibility in our writing.

There are many ways we can do research: we can read the novels in our genre; we can scour the internet; we can visit libraries, art galleries, museums, historic sites, specific destinations; we can ask those who do know, and conduct interviews; we can even go on work experience.

In my opinion there is no substitute for getting out there myself to experience a different kind of life. There is only so much I can learn from looking up references on the net, or pawing through the library. As much as it is possible, I search for the “experience”.

On the weekend I visited the National Maritime Museum in Sydney. They have on show two magnificent tall ships: The Endeavour, and the James Craig. (The James Craig is pictured above). It was my hope to soak in the look and feel of the ships because my current WIP is set on a similar rigged ship. I’d already done a lot of research via books and the net, but I was startled by the impact of the different sizes of the two ships. Size mattered in a way I hadn’t considered. The ninety-four people crammed in on the tiny Endeavour would have lived a completely different life on a ship the size of the James Craig which seemed two times larger. And so my trip, I hope, has added an extra dimension to my novel.

What other methods of research have you found helpful? How far have you gone to do research for your book?


  1. Whenever possible, it's best to see something in person. You do get a different feel and understanding. I know pretty soon I need to go club hopping for the manuscript I'm working on. I think I'll take my bouncer son with me.

    Straight From Hel

  2. I have tried to do what you've mentioned above. They are all very important methods. Thanks for the post.


  3. sounds like a productive trip! i purposely set my WIP in the area i live in to facilitate with the research. i just have to drive about ten minutes and i can see all i need to... except for about thirty pages which take place somewhere i've never been... so i'm totally dependent on web and book research for that one, and boy does it make me nervous!
    btw, great perspective on that ship photo!

  4. Sounds like you are in for some fun, Helen. Good thing you have a bouncer son ;)

    Thanks Clarissa. :)

  5. Aspiring - It was a great trip. Sounds like you are smart by setting the majority of your book close to where you live. It's so much easier that way.

    I have to confess that particular photo was taken by my husband. My similar shot came out crooked. I think I had a lean on me that day. lol.

  6. I like to pull from my real life as much as I can and from there I listen to a lot of podcasts and interviews.

    Sounds like you had a great trip.

    Lots of times when I go somewhere I think, "which one of my characters would like this place?"

  7. Hi Erinn, yes, I think that way as well. My mind is never far from my current WIP ;)

  8. It can be eye-opening to see something for yourself. I don't think readers realize how much writers research and agonize over little details that seem trivial to the story. We [the writiers] know those things bring the story to life and give our words credibility.

  9. Lynda,

    What a great idea - to visit the actual ships. I'll bet that will make your writing much more realistic and factual. Superb idea!

    I do more non-fiction writing, and I have found that conducting informal interviews can be helpful.

    Sometimes, I'll do this on facebook or email. Other times, I'll just ask the same question to several different people.

    This can assist as I write!

    Blessings to you,

  10. M Pax - this is so true. Readers enjoy a good read. I think it's a good sign when they don't realise how much work goes into the writing. The trick is to make it look effortless :)

  11. Hi Melanie, I do a lot of non-fiction writing as well so I should add a few posts with that topic in mind.

    That's a great point - Facebook, twitter, blogs all make great resources for non-fiction writing. It's so easy to pose a question and you're always guaranteed some great responses.

  12. If I had to stick to writing what I know, I’d have to write very short stories! I admit I depend a lot on libraries and the internet for research, so I do try to use locations I’ve either lived in or visited.

  13. Hi Jane, welcome to my blog.

    I used to travel a LOT, but I no longer have the funds. While getting out there is best, I can also appreciate the benefit of the internet :)

  14. You have a very good blog that the main thing a lot of interesting and beautiful! hope u go for this website to increase visitor.

  15. This is an excellent approach when researching the setting or intricate details for a book. Thanks!

  16. Thanks for leaving a comment, Chary


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