Monday, March 14, 2011

Reasons to Research

When we write, our stories often take over. We allow the characters and environments to command their own direction while we get caught up in the magic of the process. Sometimes we might forget to do any research or we tell ourselves we’ll do it later. And sometimes we realise we should have done it sooner.

Below I’ve listed reasons we shouldn’t put it off:

Research to save time. Novel writing is a time consuming endeavour. It’s good to research the market before we throw ourselves into our masterpiece because what we have in mind may not be right for the market. Armed with the knowledge of standard expectations, we can save ourselves some heartache.

Research for rule bending. We need to know the rules so we can learn which ones are bendable and which are not. For example, acceptable story length: we can get away with 120k words for a historical, but not crime.

Research for plausibility. A novel which lacks plausibility will rip the reader from the story realm. Science Fiction writers often need to research science facts and theories. Fantasy writers often have to research mythology, or historical elements. We all need to research different personalities for our characters, different vocations, and different settings.

Research for inspiration. Research opens our minds and it can often lead us to areas we wouldn’t have gone otherwise. I’ve gained so much inspiration while doing research.

When in the novel writing process do you do your research? What are some strange things you never thought you’d research?

47 comments:

  1. I research a little before beginning and then as I go. Hate to write a whole book only to have to redo most of it!

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  2. Research is key! I had to find out legal issues, jurisdiction, location, road names, all sorts of stuff for my nano novel.

    Of course, none of that matters when something happens in the story that you hadn't counted on and it changes the whole timeline....yeah. My nano story! LOL

    Have a great week!

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  3. I do as much as I can before start but there's always something that comes up that must be checked.

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  4. i try to do all the big research while in the planning stage. Especially if i've chosen a career for my characters that i know nothing about!
    Then as i'm writing small things need to be clarified, but i leave that until the draft has been finished - just add little notes or comments to research later!

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  5. Research leads to credibility, credibility leads to dependability, and dependability leads to trust, which in turn may lead to sales.

    Got research?

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  6. Historical and sf books need the most research, even by me, when I'm translating them.

    PS Lyndy, I've sent you an e-mail yesterday, check your mail box :)

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  7. I do research as I go, and it's been so incredibly helpful in allowing me to root my urban fantasy/horror in actual historical events, give my characters realistic jobs or interesting hobbies, and include little details that deepen my world building. Sometimes I do feel a little weird about the things I type into Google, though--some of them have been pretty strange.

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  8. I enjoy research - I do some at the palnning and plotting stage then continue as I go along. My WIP has antique crockery, a fancy wine and some garden sculpture....love it!

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  9. Weirdest things I've researched for my WIP? The history of Taffy, how to care for Silk Worms, the Phlogiston theory, and predicting pregnancy with a dead rabbit.

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  10. I never thought narrowboats and canals would inspire me but there you go! :-)

    Great post, thank you! Take care
    x

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  11. Alex, yep, exactly, and sometimes that can happen if we leave our research too late.

    Words Crafter, hehe you nano novel sounds like it was a challenge.

    Mary, absolutely

    Kerrin, yep, that's the way I do it.

    Jeffrey, well said :)

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  12. I don't do a whole lot of research until I start editing. Some things get filled in with a blank until I get around to researching it because when I'm on with writing I just have to go with it and take the time for the other stuff later. But sometimes if it is a location I will research it and get more inspired. Great post.

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  13. Dezzy, I didn't realise you needed to research while translating but I guess that makes sense. Regarding checking my emails: I'm a slacker when it comes to the weekends... and you are a doll!

    Sarah, it's the details that enrich the story. And yes, some research is strange.

    Margo, very cool

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  14. Christine, HAHAHAHA awesome research topics! Love it.

    Old Kitty, lol, yep, inspiration comes from the strangest places.

    Regina, yep, sometimes the writing is the highest priority and if the research can wait, then it will.

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  15. I do as much as I can before, but I find that frequent dips into research while I'm writing the book can be refreshing. It gives me perspective on the characters.

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  16. I'm actually doing the whole writing process differently (for me) this time. Usually I write and research as needed as I go along. This time, I decided to start researching my next book while revising my current one. I'm taking it easy, giving myself a month to read up on locations and cultures--I hope the writing will come more easily that way. We'll see :) Great post!

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  17. So far I've researched as I go. I love the "Research for Rule Bending". Unfortunately as soon as I learn a new writing "rule" I'll see it broken in many published books which leads to confusion. BUT, what you say is true. Rules can be broken if one knows when, where and how to break them, um, appropriately. Thanks, christy

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  18. Great list! It's funny I don't even label it research anymore, but reading within my genre is just that! I enjoy the research stage before starting a new project too. So much possibility!

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  19. Thank goodness research is mostly fun. Because you are right the more you can do the better.

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  20. I love me some research, but only after churning out the base story first. Nice blog.

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  21. On my current novel I'm researching some as I go but I know I'll have to do a lot of fact-checking for the revision. I leave little searchable symbols in the first draft so I can easily find my spots that need help later.

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  22. i enjoy research. It adds so much to our writing. And sometimes taking a few minutes to google something will add just the right detail to our work. Or change an entire plot line!

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  23. i ususallly research quite a bit before i write a single word- but then i continue to research as i write. still though- after all that research- i'll miss things. like in one book a few scenes take place somewhere i've never been- and i really researched the place. well in one scene a tree plays a pivotal role. in further research after writing that scene, i came across the fact that the particular soil issues of that specific island makes it impossible for trees to grow there. ugh! but you are totally right! research is not only neccessary- it's a hoot and a half as well!

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  24. oooh, love it, Lyndy... looks uber cool :) I immediately knew you would gonna like the simpler one more than the one with reflection, since you are a lady with subtle and refined taste :)
    And I'm glad you managed to position it well, that usually extremely difficult here at Blogger!

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  25. oh yeah! i wanted to say the new header is GORGEOUS!!! is that another dezz original? :)

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  26. Ooo, yes, the heading is lovely; love the blue/turquoise on it!

    I research a little before beginning, then when I run across something I need more info on. It does depend on the genre I'm working in.

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  27. I try to do as much research as I can before I begin writing. I love finding those details that I know will enrich the story, and like you said, the things I find out always lead me to unexpected but pleasast results.

    I like your blog, so I have an award for you over at mine. :)

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  28. and here I was thinking research as in learning about details for the story. But I'm thinking you mean market research. I guess I've done this... mostly I just write the story that's burning a hole in my brain... :D <3

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  29. I research before I start writing--I wouldn't want to get bogged down in factual barriers and lose the flow of the story/writing.

    Some things I've researched? Riot police tactics, White Lotus Cult, Manchu slavery . . . but it was fun.

    I love the new header! Congrats on 500 followers, too. :)

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  30. Kiernan, frequent dips is a good way to do it

    Jess, oh, that's a great plan. All the info will havea chance to soak in.

    Erica & Christy, with rules, the trick is finding out why it's a rule (helps to bend them with skill)

    Lisa, yes, exactly! Reading is great research.

    Al, indeed :)

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  31. Research is fun. For me. I've researched ancient history, dead languages, astronomy, physics, stealth technology, proposed technologies, local history. Need to do more on that last one for book #3.

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  32. Myne, thanks

    Kat, yep that's also a good way to do it.

    Laura, yeah, that's been known to happen

    Aspiring, hahaha, good thing you found out about the soil. I've done something similar...and then I researched ways to get around it ;)

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  33. Dezzy, I'm so glad you love it because I do too. And yes, Blogger tried to have a say on placement, but I stared it down so it behaved ;)

    Aspiring, yep! my new header is a gift from Dezz in celebration of my 500 followers. How awesome is he? I was planning on announcing it in my next post.

    Carol, so glad you like it. For sure. And so often the need for research unexpectedly crops up.

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  34. Olivia, thanks so much for the award. I'll have to work out how to translate it :)

    LTM, I meant all types of research -- market, details for plausibility etc

    Golden, how cool! I love the topics you've researched. I think us writers have to be knowledgeable in so many areas

    M Pax, yeah I wish I'd researched proposed tech before I'd written a particular short story lol.

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  35. For my first WIP, I researched during and am continuing to research after (before revising). For the one I'm about to start writing, I'm researching before.

    For my first novel I had to research where one could find really old water. Enter questions for a hydrogeologist. Happen to know one? No? Me neither. Thank you google.

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  36. I agree, research is so important. I studied many sites to figure out a number (of words) for my book. I love research.

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  37. Lynda, you're very welcome.
    The label on the award means something like "My favourite blog", and you should pass it on to 3-5 bloggers, that's all to it. :)

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  38. I'm writing a story and I thought it would be neat to have a fight in zero gravity.

    Yikes. How does that work. Wikipedia here I come. I write a lot of Scifi shorts, and I alway have to research. I usually cut and past a few internet pages into the story and work through it. Can be time consuming.

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  39. I made a huge mistake while writing my current WIP. I did the research after I had written the first few drafts. So there were several chapters I had to delete. A lesson was learnt. Now the research will be before I start writing.

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  40. I don't love research but little by little I've learned the importance of it so I usually do it as I go...maybe still not a good idea.

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  41. I had a lot of drugs in my wip... I had to do a lot of research there and then also with re-hab... the rehab research was quite easy.. because I had a relly working in a clinic when I needed to do the research.

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  42. I love research - sometimes maybe a little too much. However, it does lend verisimilitude (don't be impressed, I spell checked that one) to your story. Right now, I've done so much research I'm finally a little tired of it. And still, I have research to read....

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  43. I do my research in bits and pieces, as it comes up in the first draft, and as it comes up in later drafts.

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  44. Depends on the story I am writing- so far the strangest thing I have researched is disappearing ink. LOL.
    But I randomly search around for inspiration.

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  45. Kari, heeh google is a god-send

    Clarissa, yep, so do I

    Olivia, ah, cool thanks :)

    Deborah, zero gravity.. how cool!

    Rachna, yep, I've done something similar.

    Terri, it all depends on what you're researching

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  46. Michelle, handing having a relly in the know.

    Victoria, haha yeah that can happen too.

    Paul, yep, this seems to be the most common pattern

    Summer, disappearing ink is cool

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  47. Very interesting post. Most of my research comes before I start writing, just so I can get my barrings. Good stuff!

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

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