Thursday, April 25, 2013

How To: Researching for your Novel

Oh, so you're one of those people that think you know enough about something that you can skip researching it? How...amusing. 
(you can insert deadpan laughter right about here)
It doesn't matter if you're experienced in a certain subject or not, novel writing requires research. Even if you're writing about a subject you know inside and out, you'll still have to do some fact-checking to make sure your details are correct. 
Stumped about where to start? 
Here are some bulletproof tips for the author who needs to get some research done for their novel in the easiest, most efficient way possible. 
Make a list. Sure, it sounds so simple, but hear me out. You need to make a checklist of the information you're going to be needing to write your novel. For example, if you're creating a historical paranormal romance, you're going to want to learn as much as you can about the time period - everything from the clothes to the patterns of speech. Take your top five elements and research them to death before tackling everything else. Researching can get overwhelming if you don't take one thing at a time. 

Be social. Writers can be a little anti-social sometimes, can't they? And I mean that in the most flattering way possible, considering the fact that I myself am a professional writer. But we tend to write ourselves into a hole, er, office and forget that there are some really neat people outside our work bubble who know a lot. Writing an adventure novel about the military? Talk to somebody who's served. Penning a piece about the FBI? You might want to speak to somebody in the field. I'm researching for the sequel to my first novel, State of Emergency, and I've done everything you can imagine to get the information right - and I've got the pictures and bandaids to prove it! Writing an adventure novel isn't easy, folks. 

Learn and do. What? You thought eating M&Ms and watching Saturday Night Live counted as world experience? Think again. Like I was saying above, you need to talk to people to get information. But you also need to experience some of the things the characters in your books are. (don't take this too literally and do something stupid, okay? You're not going to turn into a vampire no matter how hard you try.)  You'll notice that a lot of authors throw their characters into areas of the country that they're personally familiar with. Do the same thing. And if you're not familiar with something, go get familiar. Right now. Yes. I'm serious. 
Familiarize yourself with something so that when you write about it, you know it. And if you know it, your characters will know it, and so will your readers.

You need to be willing to become a student to research. Learning is something we never stop doing, no matter how old we get. There's always stuff to see or do. You have to put yourself in a position to absorb the most information you possibly can, and 99.9% of the time, it's better to do than to be told. So if you can swing rock climbing in the Sierra Nevada mountains, go for it. If you can't, do everything you can to experience it otherwise. Watch videos, interview people, read firsthand accounts of that activity. 
Keep it real - research the facts. Be accurate. Sprinkle in those technical details as your story progresses, and people will say, "Yeah. That could happen. That's real." 
Next week I'll talk about the details in novel writing, but for now, get the heck off my blog...and start researching!


  1. Great post summer! And oh so true :-)

  2. Research is important. I agree with you.

  3. I stumble upon this post, as I wondering what the first steps to write a fictional book would be. While reading I stop and emailed a friend to help start my research. Thank you for the post and sharing valuable insight.

  4. Some really good tips for starting out on researching a novel. I think how much to do depends on what kind of book you're writing, where it's set and also the expectations of your readers - do they want mostly action or do they want to know about the setting in more depth.

    It's very tempting to do way too much research - especially if like me you write historic fiction. If you do though there are some really good resources out there such as the Internet Archive. I just did a blog post on how to use the Internet Research to get hold of hard to find out of copyright material for free, see

    You can get PDFs of old books and primary source material such as historic chronicles and other documents. The Internet Archive is a really good resource - I recommend taking a look.


Get fictional - it's fun! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you again soon!