5 Tips for Researching Info for Your Book
I have published two novels and I’m now working on another novel (as yet untitled). One of the characters is English, and as much as I would love to hop over to London to get a sense of the speech patterns, that’s not in my budget. What I have been able to do is send excerpts to someone there to see if what I have written sounds right. The world has become so accessible through technology that there is just no reason for anything you write to ring untrue. Research has become amazingly easy! Although I am by no means an expert when it comes to research, I have learned some common sense techniques that could be helpful to anyone.
1) Don’t stress about what you don’t know. Here’s the beauty about research: There is almost nothing you can’t find via Google. For example, I have a character in a novel I have yet to publish who is bipolar. Not only can I download information on the disease, medications and personal experiences, but I can even download the questionnaire given to someone suffering an episode and used to rate how manic and/or depressed they are. There is no limit to what you can learn, so long as you are willing to put in the time.
2) Enjoy what you are researching. I hear you asking, “What if I don’t love learning about bipolar disorder?” Of course, you don’t! However, I do love my character and I find the ups and downs of her life to be fascinating. I want to understand what she is going through in order to better be able to describe it, and, therefore, I need to know as much as I possibly can.
3) Know why you are researching something. Does it make sense to go into detail that a secondary character is a marine biologist? Does it move your story forward or are your readers going to end up bogged down in a lot of useless information? We don’t need to know the extensive analysis of biological data he or she has collected to determine the environmental effects of present and/or the potential use of land and water areas. Maybe it’s enough just to know that he’s in the profession and, therefore, environmentally aware.
4) Include personal knowledge and hands-on experience. This goes without saying. After all, as writers we have all been told again and again that we should write what we know. There is nothing as great as firsthand knowledge. In my second novel, “On a Hot August Afternoon,” I knew I wanted to be familiar with the Bay Area, where my main characters had grown up. There are a lot of flashbacks within the story, so I had to reacquaint myself with places I hadn’t seen in years. I have now lived in Los Angeles longer than the Bay Area, where I grew up. Since I still have family there, I was able to easily revisit the places that were once so familiar. My sister and I hit all of the old neighborhoods and had a blast doing it. I even photographed hangouts that my characters would have frequented, as well as the kinds of houses in which they were raised. It made all the difference.
5) Don’t try to write and research at the same time. This is admittedly my downfall. When I write, ideas have a tendency to come fast and furious. I want to get everything out before I lose my train of thought, and yet I want it to be perfect all at once. The temptation to look up something quickly is often overpowering. I have learned to go back, though. So long as you get the gist of what you need, you can always go back and fill in later. That’s what editing is for, right?
Bridget Straub has been a writer her entire life. When she’s not blogging at bridgetstraub.com, she is working on one or more novels. Her first book is titled “Searching for My Wand,” and “On a Hot August Afternoon” is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Hot-August-Afternoon-Bridget-Straub/dp/0985438401/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341873844&sr=1-1&keywords=on+a+hot+august+afternoon