When I first got into writing I had this brilliant thought that I was so intelligent and so well-versed that I didn’t need to research. This was MY writing after all, what did I need to research?
This writing thing has a heck of a learning curve, lemme tell ya. I had barely gotten to page three (maybe it was four) when I realized I needed to learn about something. So I set my work aside and googled a few things, got immediately distracted by the internet, and forgot a good portion of what I had planned for my chapter.
In short, I failed to do proper research.
I didn’t give up, mind you. I kept trying to write. But it wasn’t the only time that it happened. Somewhere around chapter three I just sorta tossed my work to the side because I kept getting interrupted by myself. I ruined my own novel because I didn’t bother to research.
Now…here’s the flip side of the coin of self-education. The next time I tried to write something I spent four months reading up on serial killers, decomposition, law enforcement, biology, and the Northern Virginia.
I never got around to writing that story either. I was so overwhelmed with information that I didn’t know what I should have, what I shouldn’t have, and what I was adding just because I wanted to show off what I knew. It was a disheartening experience.
So I’m here to tell you how I go about my research. This is what works for me, specifically, and is only offered as advice. Keep in mind that some stories need less research and more world building (such as fantasy novels) but that doesn’t mean you should skip the researching step entirely.
- Write an outline for your story. I know a lot of people cringe about this step but I promise you it’ll make your actual writing a lot easier.
- Now that you have an outline make a list of all the things that you will need to research. This list, for me, has been as little as three things and then there was that one time where it covered like…four pages in a notebook. It can cover foods, jobs, recipes, laws, family names, cultures, science, medicine, languages, so on and so forth.
- Now, put your list in order of priority. What do you need to know a lot about? The kind of things that you will need to read actual books for? What might you need to contact someone with hands on experience about? What will a quick google search cover?
- Now do it. Take that Shia LeBouf plunge and get your research done. Take notes, plan a little, and use your carefully cataloged research to make your story come to life.