Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Research

I'm getting so bad about posting, it really isn't very funny. Things are hectic, between the Boy's different therapies, the Girl's various activities, the everyday nonsense involved with the house and the pool. Not to mention, I've been working on a new story. So, put that all together and it equals days without posts.

But it brings me to something near and dear to most writers' hearts.

Research.

Love it or hate it, it's essential to creating a believable story. Since I write historical romance, it's beyond essential for me - get something wrong, and someone's going to let you know. Sometimes you can fudge things a bit - maybe a certain phrase didn't come into the lexicon for another five years after a story is set - but the last thing any writer wants to do is jar the reader from the story because of a mistake.

So, research is an integral part of writing. Over the years, I've amassed quite the collection of reference books, but it would be impossible to have a book on every single thing I've ever needed to look up. I doubt all those books would fit in my office anyway.

When I start a new story, I also start my research. I usually know what time period I'm going to be using, so I hit the Internet for the basics - speech, clothing - that sort of thing. Google is my best friend.

A lot of writers do their research first. I'm not one of them. I prefer to get the basics and then just write the story. I look things up as I come to them, and fill in the missing pieces as I revise and rewrite. It works for me because I rarely end up with pages upon pages of notes filled with information I don't need. Sure, I might end up with some extra information, which just goes into a folder and gets filed away - there's always the possibility that I'll be able to use it for another project.

Now, where to begin with the research?

Google. I've honed my Google-fu, as it were, and found it is a great place to find preliminary information. I also use Wikipedia - but since it may not be 100% accurate, it's never a primary source. It's useful for getting outside references - books and such - and a good jumping off place, but that's it.

There's also the library. The only problem I have, is that I always end up owing them money because I'm terrible about getting things back on time. Our township library is fairly large, and I can usually find at least one of the books on my list. Usually.

And then there are the college libraries. These are great because they are loaded with reference materials and the librarians are great at helping me track books down. How they know where everything is amazes me, but I'm grateful that they do.

Depending on the story I'm writing, I have no qualms about buying research books, either. I have many books on London, English and American history, as well as on certain historic events. The Colonial era is my favorite, so my bookshelves are lined with books about that era - focusing on the the American Revolution.

I've also found that children's reference books are excellent sources as well. They are nowhere near as dry as adult reference/nonfiction books, and most of them have illustrations, which makes things such as dressing my characters, a lot easier. They are right to the point, without all the dry, dull padding that I might not need to slog through to find out what it is I really need to know.

For me, research continues through most of the early drafts - as questions pop into my mind. Those are usually a lot easier to find answers to, and it usually a case of double-checking for accuracy.

So, there you have it - my method for research. It might not be the most logical, but it works for me.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yup, research can make or break ya.

Keep up the writing!

HeronW from AW :}

Kim said...

Always!

I'm up to my eyes in researching Imperial Russia right now - all so I can make my own country more real... ay yi yi! =)

Catherine L. Tully said...

I'm an online researcher m'self.

Kim said...

I love the internet - for the most part. But I always end up trying to find something and no matter how I phrase it, Google just laughs at me... =)