How do you perform your research before starting a new book?

Well, title says it all. As I´m preparing to start writing my very first book I´m curious about what tools you guys are using when doing reserach. Do you visit the places you are going to write about and if so, what do you observe and how do you document your observations? Is there other good ways of research something than simply Googleing it (Google scares me)? Tell me every last detail, please...:)

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I rarely do research for a book before starting. I read a fair amount of crime non-fiction, so I have a decent background in what can and can't be done, and how far I'm willing to do. It's during and after the first draft, when I have an idea of what I'm looking for, that I'll spend my free time doing research. That way the writing is driving the research, and not the other way around.

I also like to research while the project is ongoing because of the serendipitous accidents that results, where I stumble across something I wasn't looking for that perfectly clears up something else for me, or presents a whole new way of moving the book forward. I outline, but outlines are like rules, made to be broken.
I'm with Dana on this. If you want to end up with a book, it's important not to research for the sake of research. And you're alwqays going to adjust reality to your story, anyway.
Unless you're writing a historical novel, research can be done as it becomes necessary. The Internet should only be the first step.
Thanks for your replys, but I´m a bit confused. I mean, say for example one chapters in my book takes place in a certain church form my home town - Isn´t it a big advantage to actually have been there and felt the smells, seen the altars etc etc? Same gooes for other kind of enviroments. Or is it so simple to just sit down and write a book?:) Don´t you construct the "skin" of the book first, think some people call it a Synopsis, which includes researching?
Unlike the others, I do a LOT of research before writing my first drafts. I'm an outliner, so I as I create my scenes, I figure out what I need to know to write those scenes once I start writing. Since I place my mysteries in real Colorado locations, I will go to those locations, take lots of photographs, make notes about where I see my characters performing their actions, etc. Also, I try to learn enough about every activity I feature in my books to be able to describe what it feels like to perform them. So, since I've written about whitewater rafting, skiing, snowshoeing, fly-fishing, and such, I've tried or taken a lesson in all of those activities. I maybe not perform them well, but I make sure I can do them well enough to be able to describe what my characters experience while performing them.

Also, I interview experts in various areas I need to know more about in fiction. I take them to lunch, prepare a list of pointed questions beforehand (after researching the basics on-line & in books), and respect their time, saying I'll need no more than an hour. I've interviewed police detectives, whitewater river rangers, the organizer of a fly fishing tournament, a whitewater rafting guide, and more. Part of what I try to get out of each interview is how they talk. There's a sub-language to every vocation and avocation, and a lot of my interview notes are attempts to record snippets of that sub-language that I can weave into my fiction. The last question I ask every expert is if they would be willing to review some finished scenes addressing their expertise to check for errors. Most are willing to do this.

I feel research is VERY important, because if you get something wrong in your fiction, readers will take to you task about it, and it pulls them out of the story.
I agree with Beth; I just do it after the first draft. (Sometimes during.) My tendency is to do too much reasearch if I do it in advance, because i don't know what I'm going to need. Then I have to keep myself from jamming it all in there, which can kill a story. To me, the research is the mortar that holds the words together. The less of it I can make sound like somehting I researched, the better.

The interviews are the best. It's amazing how many people are willing to spend time, and thie things they'll come up with that will make the book better. The thing is, if you go to them too early, you might come across as fishing, and a lot of these folks are busy. I approach them with a set list of quesitons I want to ask and let them take things afield if they want to. They rarely disapppoint.
Ditto with Dana. I used to do research on stuff that got cut in the second and thrid drafts. Why?
I do my foundation research, which helps me organize my thoughts and validate the setting(s). The information gathering continues with each draft as interesting things emerge.
I do plenty of research before I get started because it gets me in the mood to write the story and helps provide context for the world I'm building and gives me plot ideas. I also do research as I progress through the first draft and the second draft too usually.
Ty for all the replies, could you be a little more specific on how you conduct your reserach? Pretend I´m a 5 year old or something ;) Interviews sounds like fun but the thought of acually going to the scene were the book takes place sounds so intreging to be. Someone told me to bring a tape-recorder and record what my senses tell me. Problem is, doesn´t people around you think you´re a freak if you do that?
My apologies, but the most important thing to do first is to become familiar with the rules of Basic English. No agent or editor will read your books otherwise.
Darling, I´m writing in swedish. I´m sorry if you don´t understand my english, I joined this forum for fun.

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