Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group. The monthly blog hop that has writers supporting and also writing out their fears.
As my first novel goes out on submission, I’ve started working on the second in the series. This novel needs a lot more research doing than the last one and research is something I’m not used to. It’s not the police procedural stuff, that’s pretty much sorted from the first one. It’s to do with the MO of the murders.
What I’ve done so far is the synopsis, so I know where the whole thing is going – which in itself is new to me as I wrote Shallow Waters from an idea and just typed it out – the initial chapters are first draft written and I’ve also started to expand the synopsis as I enjoyed writing a plan so much. I’m trying to be a plotter this time around, so I’m expanding and plotting before writing further! But what I’m starting to wonder about is the research. Do I sit and research to death, in the mode of the whole plan and plot theme, or do I just research as I go, in order to not delay the writing of the novel itself and risk getting lost and bogged down in mountains of information?
How do you deal with the matter of research for subjects you know absolutely nothing about and need to be factually correct? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I imagine I’m going to get a variety of answers, but it would be really helpful to read them as this part is new to me.
Alex J. Cavanaugh says
I did a lot more research before beginning my latest manuscript and now I realize I could’ve saved most of it for after the first draft. (Meaning I haven’t used much of it yet. All that sea kelp research for nothing…)
Rebecca Bradley says
Thanks Alex, that’s helpful because that’s what I’m worried about, creating too much research info that I don’t need. Love the sea kelp info you have!
Margot Kinberg says
Rebecca – I’m very glad to hear you’re as focused on research as you are. I think it really lends to the authenticity of a novel when the author gets it right. And I think you can do that without going on and on with facts in the story. For what it’s worth, when I was researching one of my novels, I needed to find out something about police jurisdiction in U.S. national parks.. So I contacted a representative from one of the parks. She was more than happy to check facts with me, and I think the story is better for it. In general, I find that asking for a little time from someone who’s an expert is a very effective way to do research. And most are more than happy to help.
Rebecca Bradley says
Margot, I am hoping to speak with some professionals in the area I need. And I completely agree that the novel doesn’t need swamping in facts, just a level of authenticity. It’s interesting that so many professionals are willing to talk to writers. I hope I’m so lucky!
I only do light research (Wikipedia, yay!) for stuff I know little to nothing about in my first draft writing because what I often find is that my story goes in another direction, and then all that research would have been wasted. Once I’ve got the first draft (a sketch of my story) down, I find where the passion of the story lies, and at that point, I pretty much can’t stop devouring mountains of research. I read lots of books and blogs about the topic in question, and try to seek out people who have experience with it. In the end I don’t use even close to all I’ve learned, but knowing what to use and what to leave out is tricky so that’s fine with me. The research I was so passionate about was fun to do. 🙂
Rebecca Bradley says
That’s a good point about the first draft changing direction. I suppose light research would get you through a first draft and once that’s down you know what else you need.
Glynis Smy says
I love researching for my novels. I do get carried away and have to wade through endless notes, filing them away for later dates. Writing to experts in the field often gets you great results, the worst you get is a ‘no sorry, can’t help’. 🙂
Rebecca Bradley says
That’s the problem Glynis, I’m worried I’m going to be so interested in the subject matter, I’m going to just lose myself! Fingers crossed for some expert advice though.
Jane Isaac says
Hi Rebecca, I probably research far too much, but I do enjoy it and find it helps to get everything sorted in my head. For me its all part of the journey, although only a trickle of it ever appears in the novel. I tend to research a theme before I start and then pick up on additional pieces as the book progresses and I switch things about. For my last book I did a lot of research on the background of serial killers: I read lots of books on real cases and consulted a psychologist to make sure their character was full and believable. It’s amazing how helpful people are when you approach them. Best of luck with your submission and your second novel. 🙂
Jacqui Murray says
I read about it until something clicks in my brain that says I understand it. Sure, it won’t be as someone who lived it did, but it’ll be enough to tell the story. Google Earth has done wonders for that.
My first manuscript (which is now used to torture naughty students & thankfully, never got published) needed a lot of research. I googled a lot (not always reliable), spoke with someone who had a similar experience firsthand, and read another novel that dealt with the same issue . . . hope you get the help you’re looking for and good luck!!
I always research as much as I can before and during writing. I don’t think you can have too much information, even though not all of it will feed directly into your work. It’s better rouse professions or published papers and documents than using Google or Wiki.
One of my books (The Everything Theory) I researched for about two years before I put pen to paper (or fingers to keys). I usually do some research, but that was my biggest project 😀
Linda King says
I’m full of admiration for your achievements – one book subbed and another on the way as well as working and living. Good on you! 🙂
Congratulations on your achievements!
I do some research before I start and then as necessary. Since it’s easy for me to get caught up in research – three hours later I realize I’m still reading info and not writing- I have to limit my research time!