Researching for a Book-What is your Method?


Here is my next question for authors.  Many of the books out there require extensive research.  Most people don’t realize how much of fiction is actually based on fact.  Authors who write historical novels have to be accurate in their time-lines, settings, and prominent figures.  If they aren’t, readers will become upset at the inaccuracies.  If you write contemporary, then its a matter of describing each location’s weather, geography, points of interest, etc.  Even with fantasy, writers look at legends from old to draw from.  Non-fiction books are almost entirely research oriented.

I know some of you cross genres, but how much time (on average) does it take you to do research for a book?  Do you do most of it before you even start writing or is it something you do as you go along?  Are there any particular methods that work best for you?

The writing process is very individual.  Each person has to take their own journey to make a book come to life.  There is no right answer to these questions so please do speak freely.  I will look forward to your responses!

~ by Suzie on May 27, 2011.

7 Responses to “Researching for a Book-What is your Method?”

  1. I love your discussion questions! They’re so interesting and unique enough that everyone will have something different to say.

    When I’m settling on an interpretation of a mythology, I’ll do the research before I start writing. Like right now I’ve been researching vampire and Wicca traditions.
    On the detail level, I research as I go. I can’t even write without an Internet connection and access to Google to check on something. I use Google Earth to get satellite images of setting locations I’ve never been to. I’ve looked up blogs by professionals about their careers to see what day-to-day life looks like. My recently published book, Phoenix Feather, has a character who’s a fireman, so I went to the library and checked out their training manual to learn all the terms and procedures.

    I’m curious what other people do!

    • Angela, I’m so glad you like the questions. I want them to be intriguing enough for people to want to answer and read other’s responses!

      I can understand your method for research. There are some things you can know ahead of time to do and other things that come up in the writing process. I often wonder how in depth some authors go into lore and mythology when writing paranormal or fantasy. I’m glad you answered that!

  2. For my novel, I did quite a bit of research because my character is a photographer and I knew absolutely nothing about photography! I started out by buying a few books at a used book store. By a stroke of luck, my character uses an old Leica, so old camera books were exactly what I needed! I learned all about how a camera works, film, dark rooms, developing, and a million other things. Once I had the basics, I decided it was important for me to experience the process. I’m a teacher at a high school that has a pretty good photography teacher, so I tracked her down and she agreed to teach me the basics. She let me borrow an old 35 mm similar to the Leica in my story for a whole weekend. I literally went out and took picture the way my character would and then learned how to develop them from start to finish. That hands on approach taught me more than any book or internet site ever could. I learned about the craft, but also a few new things about my main character. The experience really helped me write with a much higher degree of accuracy. Plus, it was really interesting to put myself in his shows for a couple of days. 🙂

    • I am most impressed with how far you went to understand your character. Plus it must have been fun to learn something new. Working a camera and taking a variety of pictures can actually be a lot of fun. Regardless, I doubt many authors have gone to the lengths you did to study their characters. I’m sure it shows in your book making it far more believable and realistic. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your research process!

  3. Because I tend to base most of my stories up here in the northeast where I live, I typically don’t have to look too far or too hard to research weather, locales, or local mannerisms. For my first few books, I used to research as the story required it. Today, I am much more likely to research the points as part of an outline. Most of my research is internet search-based, although for “From My Cold Young Fingers” I did interview several retired maritime cops and a lobsterman. I learned that “Downeast Justice” was a brutal maritime tradition back in the 1940s. To some extent, it survives to this day.

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