7 Research Tips for Writing Your Novel

7 Research Tips for Writing Your Novel
July 11, 2017 1 Comment For Authors, Writing Advice, Writing Advice J.K. Allen

This month we are talking research. Now, many writers cringe when they hear the word. And they might say, “But we are fiction writers, can’t we just make stuff up?” The answer is, we may make a lot of things up, but we have to have a realism to our stories. It’s what allows them to get caught up in your story world. If we lose that belief, they shut the book and walk away. So let’s look at some tips for research.

  • Don’t include everything you learn. The last thing you want to do is to info dump and drown your readers in jargon or technical details. Remember the story comes first and everything must serve the story. So drop indiscreet details that give a deeper look to the world you’re portraying, but don’t go overboard.
  • That said, the story comes to life in those little details you add. Bring in the other senses besides sight. Smell, touch, hearing, and taste are all important to evoking a scene. Immerse your reader in the scene.
  • Use what you know. There’s nothing like experience to draw on. Use authentic knowledge you have to add depth to your story world. This could be setting details from the town you grew up in, or scenery from your favorite vacation spot, the taste of the local Ethiopian restaurant’s cuisine, or details from growing up on a military base. Use these details in your writing and add richness and a genuineness to your story.
  • Use the internet to your advantage. Not only does Google have thousands of images and websites on your topic you can browse, but sites like YouTube and Pinterest also hold a treasure trove of information and pictures that you can use to inform your writing. Take advantage of everything that’s available from all over the world. Can’t afford a trip to the Carribean? Use Google Earth to view its sights and streets and visit websites to learn local history and facts about climate and culture.
  • Visit your local library. Whether it’s a public library or a university library, libraries have all sorts of specialized and expert books you can glean information from. They also have far more resources at their disposal. Use those resources to your advantage.
  • Interview others. Whether it’s over the phone, in town with the resident expert, or reaching out to your network online, you can learn a lot from other people’s experiences and knowledge. If you can’t find anyone local to interview, reach out on a related Facebook group. People have a wealth of information and are usually willing to help. Just be prepared with which questions you want to ask, the last thing you want to do is waste someone else’s time not being prepared. Also, be sure to thank them for their time. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others.
  • Don’t stop at just one source and check your sources. Not everyone on the internet is an expert. Check your sources. Even Wikipedia has a citation list you can reference to follow up with what you learn. Websites that end in .edu or .gov are reliable sources. And get your facts from multiple sources to get the most accurate information. This will get you all the little details you need to add layers to your story.

Research doesn’t have to be your enemy. I love learning new and interesting facts and incorporating them into my story. It also helps to set aside specific research time aside from your writing time, so when you sit down to write, you can just write. What are your best tips for research? Share below and happy researching!


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J.K. Allen Julia Allen received her BA in Creative Writing and English from Michigan State University. She did her senior thesis in poetry under the tutelage of Diane Wakoski, but has been focused primarily on fiction as of late. Common writing themes that can be found in her work address identity and the type of strength that can be found in ordinary people. Julia is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy novel and can be found at local cafes in her hometown when writing, and painting, drawing, or reading when not.

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