Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Anticipation Is The Worst!

I hate research. I hate thinking about it, and I even hate writing about it, which is why I’ve been avoiding this topic for a while now. J To me, research means going to the library, finding unwieldy books, trying to figure out things that make little sense, and then writing about them in ways others will understand. Blech!

But then I sat down and thought about it for a few minutes and I realized something. Research doesn’t have to be that way. There are many ways to go about researching a topic:

  • Library
  • People
  • Photographs
  • Travel
  • Computer
I know my friend and co-blogger, Paula, does a lot of her research for her books by travelling to different places. I’ve been inspired by my travels as well. My uncle has a house on Block Island and whenever I’ve visited him there, I’ve always thought it was the perfect place to set a story. It also happens to be a perfect place to retreat to in order to write.

For one of my books, I had to research what it would be like to be in a wheelchair. For this, I found Yahoo groups and spoke to people who were more than happy to talk to me, despite the awkwardness of some of my questions! For another book, I needed information about make-up artists. Again, a computer group helped me to learn about the types of artists there are and the equipment they use. And the social aspect of this method was a bonus!

I once went to fascinating photography exhibit. The photographer took pictures of abandoned buildings that had been part of Ellis Island at one point. He put them together with information about what immigrants experienced and the result was amazing! Photographs provide insight that some descriptions just can’t convey. When I eventually write the historical novel that’s percolating in my head, I know this exhibit is going to help me tremendously.

I guess what I’ve learned is that whatever method I choose to use, and ultimately, I’ll probably have to use all of them, if I’m interested enough in the topic (which I’d better be if I’m going to write about it in such a way so as to engage my readers), the research may be a lot easier than I anticipate.


  1. I tend to research as I go along, depending on what I need for a particular scene or part of a story.
    You're right that I've been able to use some places I've visited on my travels (I'm going to Croatia next year so that might prove interesting!).
    The internet is my main source for research. I even spent the whole of one Sunday afternoon watching YouTube videos of mares giving birth!

  2. Being a lawyer in the day job and having to research legal things makes me way too excited to dig into other types of research that are more exciting and interesting so I love it. I'm with Paula- travel is a great way to research.

  3. Hate libraries..love research. Huh?

    I've found that my entire set of 6 novels about ancient Ireland needed massive amounts of research. So I started buying books, reading wiki articles, following threads from Gaelic phonology to milking cows...And only after I'd finished most of the books did I realize that I could have been trolling through the yahoo! IMAGES files. Too late. I had already conjured in my imagination and from pure reading what those places looked like.

    And I loved every minute of it. And I never once darkened the door of a dreaded library. (I'm a claustrophobe.)

    Great question! Happy writing. :-D

  4. For my WIP, I checked out library books on castles and medieval life. I researched locations in Brittany through travel guides. I did Internet searches. I bought used books on Brittany. The local bookstore found a Breton-English dictionary.
    I love research!

  5. Paula, I'm looking forward to finding out what inspires you in Croatia, but the mares giving birth videos--ewww!

    Jillian, since you do research all day, you're probably much better at it than I am. I think it's probably a skill you have to keep working on so you (or I, in this case) don't get rusty. But I bet your night research is a lot more fun!

    Erin, wow, that's a lot of research! And for the record, I don't hate libraries, just the searching through a million volumes of something to find what I need. My local library is awesome!

    Ana, yes, I know you love research--and you're great at it! :)

  6. So far I haven't tackled the Civil War set romance I have percolating in my head for the very reason of the research. I want to make sure I have it right. And I know it's going to take time and patience to make it so.

    Usually when I do research, I head for the youth section of the library and grab a bunch of books from there about my topic. They are easy to understand, get right to the point, and usually have pictures, which is an added bonus!

  7. Hi Debra, I've been doing Internet searches and favoriting pages so that I can go back to them when I want. Good luck!

  8. I've heard from a couple of other writers that history books for children/young people are good for authors to get the basic details of a period in history. While I'd agree that they can be great for information about clothing, furniture etc, getting into the mindset of a past era is a whole different exercise, and that's what you need to write a credible novel set in the past. As an historian by profession, with many years of teaching the subject, I've read too many novels which are 'modern stories in fancy dress' (especially Regency ones!)