Wednesday, June 30

How I Write: Week Three – Research

strand books We’re talking about research this week. It can be interesting, daunting, overwhelming, or a time suck. Either way, an author that foregoes research may be leaving their readers behind. There’s nothing worse than reading a great book only to be stuck on a point so improbable or plain false, you can’t let it go. I remember reading a suspense novel when I was in college. It was intriguing. The entire story hinged on one major question. Was the main character, a defense lawyer protecting a dangerous sociopath or a misunderstood victim? Unfortunately, the author didn’t do the appropriate research into psychological disorders and used the term Schizophrenia rather than Multiple Personality Disorder (later known as Dissociative Disorder). It drove me nuts as a reader and I never want to find myself in the same scenario.

My goal on the first draft is to get the words down so I leave research until revision. As I write and come up with something I want to look up, I put a little note in my ‘handy dandy’ ever present notebook. On occasion, when it’s a quick google search that could save me time later, I’ll do it immediately. I try to keep it to a five minute search for an answer if I’m in the middle of writing. For example, when my hero decided to propose and plan a wedding within twenty-four hours, I looked up what he needed to bring with him for the marriage license. Seconds later and I had it and was ready to move on.

There are three great resources for research: the internet, books, and people. Internet searches can be a great way to get a quick answer to a quick question. Searching on Google and Wikipedia can net you a lot of information and you’ll have to be sure to target your search and stop once you have what you need. Books are better for primary sources, like accounts by people who lived in a particular time or through a specific event. The library would be a great place to start on your search. People can be an incredible wealth of information. Writing about a police officer, become friends with the community liaison at your local police station. Have your character going to the emergency room, be sure to run your scenario by someone with a medical background.

Click on the How I Wrote Logo above to find a listing of the other writers participating in this blog series.


12 Quick Tips to Search Google Like an Expert a few tips on how to get the information you’re looking for on Google.
Confessions from a Research Geek – Some helpful info on research from Lisa Gardner
Eight Ways Research can Kill Your Novel – Lisa Gardner lets you know when research gets to be too much.
Writers’ Research Pages – A TON of links on almost everything a writer might need to research when writing their books. This site is compiled by Charlotte Boyett-Compo (Please note: This site is for those visitors over 18.)
Image of ‘strand books’ courtesy of ricoeurian.


Ansha said...

Great post Isabelle. I love the links you've added. Great resources. I plan on checking out the Tips for using Google. Thanks!

Ansha said...

btw, Isabelle, the template you're using (is awesome) but is obscuring the login information and password window and the Post Comment button, making it near impossible to post a comment. I was able to use the Tab key to move through the fields, but you might want to see if the designer has an update/fix or a new template. :)

P.M. Rousseau said...

Great post and I especially like the links. Well done!

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