Research doesn’t have to be like a rabid animal trying to take a bite out of your backside. Make peace with it; in fact, make best friends with it.
Research is Phase Two of my outlining stage. I consider myself lucky because I love to conduct research. Let’s face it, you can learn something that you didn’t know when you woke up that morning. How cool is that?
Click here Revved up and Writing to Go! to access the link to my previous post on beginning the novel outline.
I divide my research into two categories: information and storyline notes. I can hear you groaning because now there’s not one type of research, but two! Hey, I never said that research for your novel would be like eating a box of candy. Not exactly. Think more like cotton candy, sticky, usually messy but oh so good.
- Make appointments to interview professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, police detectives, stockbrokers, etc. Be sure to have your questions organized, well thought out and written down before talking with any professional. Don’t forget you may have a friend, co-worker, or family member that can shed some light on your questions.
- Spend time surfing the Internet to find answers to add depth to your story. Don’t just use the Internet as your only source of research information. Be creative and find your answers through various sources. Your storyline and characters will thank you for it.
- Comb through books, bookstores, libraries, used bookstores, and any type of retail store that would hold answers to your research questions.
- Visit all settings or locations (if possible) in person that has anything to do with the story you’re writing, such as towns, places of interest, tourist attractions, rural or city areas, etc. Take plenty of photos to help keep you inspired. Digital cameras are awesome for that purpose. If you can’t visit a particular area, find videos on YouTube, websites, talk to someone who has been there, or dig through more books.
Research Storyline Notes:
- Create a crime timeline for your story. This is especially helpful if you’re writing a crime, suspense, mystery or thriller novel. It’s a place where you can plot your character’s crimes for your own information or how you want to unravel it for the reader. I do this for myself to keep clues, MOs, forensics from my serial killers straight. This is where you can do additional research to fill the gaps.
- Create fact cheat sheets. Not every novel needs this, but I like to list important notes to remind me or actual facts (forensic, locations, etc.) to make sure that I incorporate correctly into my novel. I did this for Dark Mind and found many interesting facts about Kauai that I didn’t know about.
- List character motives and opportunities. This is one of my favorite things to do because it helps me to keep the reader guessing who is actually the killer. I make sure that more than one character has the opportunity to kill another. You make this list as simple or as complicated as you need it to be.
There is no right or wrong way to conduct research for a novel, but make peace with it and have fun. You will notice that your story will shine and be full of depth if you take the extra time to research.
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