So you want to become a novelist. Congratulations, you’re already on your way to becoming a master of the written word with that decision. But anyone who’s ever tried to write a book will tell you it isn’t as simple as spilling 100,000 words onto a page. Besides the actual writing and getting to key plot points, you also need to research, even when writing fiction.
Research? But you thought your research days ended the moment you graduated. They did for a time, but now you can use your skills to help your characters and settings come to life. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you research like a professional.
Read Within Your Genre (and Out of It, Too)
Everyone has a favorite genre. Whether fantasy, sci-fi, romance, or lit-fic, people often veer towards their preferred genre when writing. This means they often ignore other genres, which can be detrimental to their writing experience.
Reading across genres provides a better perspective to help you see themes and issues differently. Take A Song of Ice and Fire. On the surface, it is fantasy, but it also includes political elements that some readers might prefer to the dragons and magic found in other chapters.
Search For Contemporary Reports
To write about a specific time in history, you need to read contemporary reports. Otherwise, you risk being an untrustworthy writer.
Contemporary reports of nonfiction books about specific topics will help you identify small details that can bring your historical world to life. You’ll also avoid mistakes, such as discussing techniques humanity has not developed yet.
Make The Most of the Internet
The Internet can be a valuable resource. Whether you want to research the science behind Parasitic twins or ask a community the intricacies of their hobby for your book, you’ll likely be able to find the answer.
You might even find anecdotal posts or reports from people who could offer helpful insight into certain cities or subcultures that give you a wealth of information to draw from when it comes to fleshing out your novel.
However, as useful as the internet can be, it’s also easy to stumble across information that seems too good to be true. This is why it’s so important to double-check everything, as you never know what information could be incorrect.
Many novelists will tell you not to write something if you cannot confirm it. Although fantasy or sci-fi veer into the realm of the unknown, or character-driven pieces give you more freedom with descriptions, anything that can be proven false should be avoided.
Don’t Be Afraid of Creative License
Creative license is a vital tool for any writer. While you shouldn’t write anything that can be proven incorrect, this doesn’t mean there aren’t some events that no one knows what really happened, meaning you can take liberties when it comes to descriptions or characterization.
These liberties will make your prose and the novel more interesting. Rather than merely describing actions and events, your creativity will make the characters more real and help build their world authentically.
Focus On Key Details
Novels are built upon small but key details, and you can convey these details convincingly through your research. Everyone knows about big historical events, but it takes a talented researcher to dig up small but significant facts to pepper throughout their novel.
These details can help give characters the motivation they need as protagonists or antagonists. They can also add further context to a scene or help establish themes within the book.
Exceptional research is the foundation upon which a great novel is built. Without it, you end up with plot holes. You miss the crucial social and historical context, and your novel’s events fall flat, while the characters seem one-dimensional and cliche. You may not want to research, but what you want doesn’t matter. If you want to write a good book, research is essential.
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