When do you research?

I must admit research for the novels I’ve written so far has been quite limited. A medical tidbit here and there, something about weather or location. Maybe subconsciously I’ve shied away from too much research because I’m scared of getting something terribly wrong and everyone saying what a silly-billy I am 🙂

My last wip was set in Hollywood and this in itself scared me. The story that I wanted to tell HAD to be set here but I was terrified any reader (or editor) would be able to tell that I’ve never been anywhere NEAR the place. The verdict is still out on this because I haven’t heard from the editor whether it is any good yet.
But in the meantime, I’m starting a new novel (or two). Research for one included a bit of a Google about cat illnesses last night and today I’m moving on to reading about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. I’m two chapters into the story that is going to quite heavily involve an old man with some form of dementia. Not sure yet whether he’ll have Alzheimer’s or not but I think it’s time to open a few books and do some online research on the disease.
This got me to thinking about how much research I need to do right now. Do I need to find out every last thing about Alzheimer’s right away or should I just dive right in to write the book and stop to research as questions come up? I’m not sure if one way is better or the other. Even if I do some reading now, there’ll probably be some things I need to find out about as I go along.
So tonight, I’m going to start with some vague reading around the subject and maybe look for specifics as they arise.
But I’m curious? How do you research? Does it totally consume you before you start a novel or do you dive right in and pause to research only when absolutely necessary?

9 thoughts on “When do you research?

  1. I do some groundwork before starting. Save links and all that, but I find sometimes I don't have the answers when I'm mid-write so I make a note or stop and try and find out what I need.

  2. I love the research side of writing but I also find information in the most unlikely places like sitting on buses chatting to people or unexpected dinner companions when away with work 🙂

    I do think research is important but the skill is in dropping in enough info to be believable without the info dump. I've been guilty of writing passages that sounded like 'how to fly' manuals in previous novels…

    And you're next book sounds interesting!!!

  3. Research is my favourite part! I tend to do enough research to get me through the first draft and I make notes if I need to add in descriptions of places I haven't been to. After draft one is done I google, go to the library, or put out a request for people who've travelled to the destination I need first-hand information on.

    Your book sounds really interesting!

  4. If it is a time period or place I know well, I start writing then research as necessary. If it is a time period I know very little about, I do some research first then start writing.

  5. I love research, sometimes more than the actual writing part…! I think that comes from the many years I spent in academia and writing essay after essay!
    For each idea/MS I start is have a blank hardback note book for each one and scribble ideas down, stick pictures in, many many spider diagrams etc, then I work out what I need to research and devote a couple pages to each thing, but it's light research and I 'usually' put notes where I can find more info in case I need it later on!
    And, thank heavens for the internet, I much prefer doing research in my PJ's.

    Great post, Rach.


  6. Jodie – your process sounds quite a bit like mine I think 🙂

    Helene – isn't that true about research. And those places often also spark new story ideas. You make a good point about making sure there's no info dump!

    WOW Alli, I admire that you like research the most! I'm too airy-fairy to like it best I think 🙂

    Georgie – that makes complete sense!!

    RLA – I LOVE the sound of your notebooks. I have one for each book too but they are very unorganised.

  7. Good question Rach… I find I get a bit of an overview and then see to what degree will I use the ailment, illness, condition, situation etc and then see what else I need to know!


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