Tuesday, 13 April 2010

On Research

For most novels, there would be some kind of research involved. If it's a historical, obviously you are looking at considerable amount of accurate information to portray the time period correctly. If it's contemporary romance, thriller or women's fiction perhaps the only research needed are some facts about the place, your character's profession, or weapons. Regardless of what or how much you need - you need research.
When do you do it? Do you start with research, and then write the book? Or do you write the book and then fill in the holes?
I have done a variety of things for various stories I have written, but now the best approach for me is to write the book, leave the final research till the end. Of course during the course of writing / revising, I might look up things, sometimes read books that might inspire me on the subject, but for anything that needs to be specific and factual, I don't worry about it until the end.
The main reason for this is that research is fascinating. With the Internet, there is endless array of resources available at no expense and in the comfort of my own home. So once I get going, it's hard to stop. One topic inevitably leads to something else that is fascinating and so the chain of research continues, collecting information that is no longer just for the book.
There is nothing wrong with learning more, gaining new knowledge, but if our goal is to write a book, to finish it, then the focus must be there. Unnecessary research cannot be counted as part of productive writing time.
Leaving it after the initial story has been written makes it easier to focus. I find out what I need, and go back to my draft, because then the emphasis is on making the draft better. The lure of new information is easier to avoid.
How about you? How do you do your research?


  1. Dear Dolly,

    If I have a hunch to write a story, I do it there and then and than the research follows. Though I must admit that on my last WIP Historical Novel I went in with the ideas in my head and just wrote the story and than got factual data from the Internet at the same time as I was writing to set the realism of the scene and to gain clarity of what was happening in the story. I think research depends on how I am drawn to what I am writing, and whether I want to make it factual enough as well as the underlining interest.

    I also got inspired along the way with historical information that was related to what I wrote, but I wouldn't go back and change it, just see it for what it is and see whether the inspiration would entice me to continue the story. Up to now it has had it's moments.

    No set path for research on me here.

    Great to be back on your blog. :)

  2. I'm with you - I wait until the draft is done, at least...unless I find myself stuck because I need to know a detail before I can move on. I don't mind research, I love learning new things, but I'm lazy too. And I get distracted (as we all do). Neither of which bodes well for researching first.

    I suppose if I ever get to the point where I'm writing on proposal, I'll have to do some of the research up front, but for now, I'm content to wait until revisions. :-)

  3. I do a little of both, during and after. I'm not big on research, I know I should be, but Ugh. It's like school...LOL I try to avoid at all costs ;o)Don't get me wrong I do like learning, I know it doesn't sound like it, but when I'm writing I want it to be about that alone, ya know?

    Great post!

  4. Ana,

    Great to have you back :-) Your approach is great, but in that case either you would have to accurately know the facts you need to research or have a story in which it would not be important to have facts. So I guess it would depend on the purpose of writing and the intention for it.


    Ditto - love learning but get lazy too. In my case more accurately get sidetracked. I might start looking for something specific, but then probably end up somewhere else reading something totally irrelevant. Oh well, the joys of Internet.


    What can I say? I am a sad case. I love feeling like school approach :P Yes, I have said this before - I loved school not because I paid a lot of attention, but because I had a lot of fun there, and actually I do kind of wish I had learned more, so now I am making up for it.

  5. I write fantasy, mostly, so my research is minimal. :)

    The little I do, I do as I need, which generally means either when I come across something in the plan, or during the first draft.

    If I don't wish to interrupt my writing, I put a note in saying "RESEARCH!" :-)


  6. I'm with Adam, my settings are more fantasy than reality oriented so I don't usually have a lot of research to do.

    However, one work in particular did require some research at certain points. What I do is allot a specific amount of time towards research and if I don't have all the answers when my time is up then I just tag the spot to come back to when I'm done the draft.

  7. C R,

    that's a very disciplined approach :-)