My favorite thing about writing is research. At first, when I thought of everything I needed to learn to properly flesh out a manuscript, it seemed daunting. Now, as I delve into current projects, I get excited about all the new things I get to experience. Because, let’s face it, reading about something is not nearly the same as doing them. Sometimes, I’m not able to do things myself but I do spend the time to try and find someone who has. Meeting great people and picking their brains for stories is just as fun.
My writing process begins with plotting and researching as much as possible first. When it’s time to start writing, I sit down at my computer with my notes and just let the stream of consciousness flow. Doing research ahead of time allows this to happen. However, there is no way to foresee everything I will need in that first draft. So, a trick I use is to type XXX in the manuscript when I come across something I need to investigate and move on. After the first draft is done, I look up all of my XXX’s and begin research round two. This, of course, doesn’t count for a quick google check to clarify something. I’m referring to needing to consult an expert or go out and try something to make sure I’m accurately portraying a scenario.
My formula looks like this:
- Research list – What do I need to learn about?
- Hunt for my resources – experts I need to consult, places I need to visit, books I need to read, things I need to go experience (do I need to go skydiving? probably not for any of my books)
- Talk to all the people/do all the things.
- Write about the things.
- Draft two, go back to number two and start again.
My current work in progress involves a lot of scuba diving. Most of you know I scuba dive somewhat regularly (more often when I travel to warm water because this cold water stuff is tough), but I need to look at it differently for this novel. In this book, scuba diving is not recreational, it’s investigative and professional. So now, when I’m diving, it’s more than looking at all the pretty fish. I have to slow down and really think about the cold water stinging my face when I first plunge in. How the bulkiness of my gear restricts my movements, how the sound of my breathing is the only thing I hear, the pop of my ears as I descend into the cold depths, the murkiness of the water, etc.
What I’m trying to get at is: don’t be afraid of research. It is one of the best things about being a writer. Needing to have answers is going to take you to places you never expected and you will meet people you wouldn’t ordinarily come in contact with. Not only will your writing be richer, so will you. Make some calls and meet people, go on a trip to investigate locations, experience something you haven’t before. But most of all have fun!
I’d love to hear how other writers go about researching their novels. Do you have a special formula or procedure you follow? And great resources you want to share? Please leave a comment below.