This week we are diving into the research rabbit hole! This coined phrase is used because it’s extremely easy to get bogged down by researching subjects that you THINK you need to know in order to write your story, when in reality you only need to have a very base knowledge.
The reason that I wanted to complete a bullet point outline of the plot prior to research week(s) is because it will help narrow down what’s necessary to look into prior to writing your draft. So, pull out your completed outline and read through each chapter and scene breakdown to establish what subjects you believe you need more knowledge on in order to write. Just because your character is an accountant does not mean you need to read ten accounting books to write one scene where your character crunches a quick equation. What information is absolutely necessary in order to write that one scene?
Here’s an example, the main character in my current WIP is a lover of classic gothic literature. Immediately, I was like I need to read every gothic novel ever written. Nope. Not the case. After outlining my novel, I realized that I only needed to read ONE novel in particular and only needed to have a basic knowledge of the plot of a couple others to get by. This is doable. What’s more, is that I can continue to read the other ones on my list slowly if I want to pepper in a reference line here and there in later drafts.
After creating a list of subjects that you need more information on look at the list and separate the subjects into two categories; Essential or Non-Essential. Ask yourself, do I need to research this subject in order for my plot to move forward or am I wanting to research this subject because it’s a character quirk that I want to include? For example, say your character is a pirate captain and almost the entirety of the book takes place on the ship. It’s probably good that your character knows the layout of his pirate ship and the proper terms for what everything is called, BUT is this essential to the plot? If fifty percent of your scenes take place on the ship deck, twenty five percent take place in the captain’s quarters and the rest takes place on land you probably don’t need to spend a ton of time researching ships. You can focus instead on those two locations on the ship to get an idea of layout and such but besides that, at least initially, you should be good. You don’t NEED to know every nook and cranny of a pirate ship in order to write your book. Determine what is essential and what is just your crazy brain thinking you need all the knowledge.
Once you have a shortened list of the essential subjects you need to research in order to write your book you can start figuring out the best way to get this knowledge and quickly. I have limited the amount of time allotted for research to two weeks. Then you’re cut off. That’s not a lot of time, so try and stay away from textbooks or long boring historical biography’s. Unless you’re into that and will actually read it, then go for it. Otherwise, look into online seminars or documentaries that you can rent or stream. Take notes while watching them! Be actively engaged otherwise it will all be for nothing. Look up credible websites if you’re needing to know something specific like the layout of a pirate ship or the date of a specific event etc.
Have fun with your research, but use your time wisely! Remember, focus on the plot essential things first, then as you're going through the writing process you can continue your research on the side for the non-essential but don’t let it hold you back. The worst thing a writer can do is pause their writing because they believe that they need to spend copious amounts of time on research. Don’t fall into that trap. Good Luck and Happy Writing!