Topics to Research for Your Novel – Our Write Side

Research can be a tricky component of writing a novel. After all, it’s so easy to fall into the rabbit hole clicking on endless links and losing 3 hours of our life. It can also be frustrating as we search for specifics, but those details can really improve our narratives. We need to find a balance between writing and research, so knowing what to look for is the first step to researching success. So what do we need to research for exactly? Let’s take a look.

Things to research:

  • For place- Immerse your reader in a realistic and accurate setting. Include sensory and concrete details. Even when you’re making up a fictional setting, use details from real life places to bring your setting to life.
  • For time- Is your story set in modern times or is it a historical novel set in a very specific time? Be accurate to the times and real life events that occurred then.
  • For character- People watch. Use real life characteristics of the people around you to bring your characters to life. Take note of how people talk, what they wear, and how they present themselves to the world. Research different lifestyles as well.

Things to research: Character. People watch. Use real life to make authentic characters.… Click To Tweet

  • For technical occupations- You may need specific and insider information about how a job works, whether it’s someone who works at NASA or it’s for a crime novel. Your best bet is to interview someone in this profession. Just remember to be respectful and ask the important questions you need to so you don’t waste anyone’s time.

Keep research organized

Keep your research notes organized either by using a notebook with tabs, folders or binders, your computer, or with apps like Evernote (which I highly recommend). Make an index list in your notebooks so you can easily find information by section. Organize your time to research as well by prioritizing topics and subtopics to search for and by setting aside specific time to research each week as well. Otherwise it can be easy to procrastinate by researching when we should be writing. Decide how much time you’ll spend researching each topic and subtopic and remember some details are okay to invent to fit into our narratives.

What tips do you have for researching effectively? Share below and happy researching!


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For good resources for researching, read Nancy Miller’s post on the topic here.

Columnist/Illustrator at Our Write Side/OWS Ink, LLC 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.