Our imaginations can create exciting stories and people them with colourful characters. But most novels don’t work unless they have some connection to reality. Of course, we all have life experiences to draw on, but what do you do if you want your novel to reach beyond that?
On the surface, the answer to that question seems obvious: you do research. But exactly what research should you do and how much of it? Writers have limited time and energy to write, time and energy that can be sucked up by doing endless research.
I recently faced this problem when I wrote a romantic novel about a stand-up comedian and an event planner. I knew absolutely nothing at all about stand-up comedians and event planners, and very little about Judaism. Researching these topics online turned out to be a waste of time because I had no idea of how I was going to use the mountain of facts I uncovered.
The solution was simple. I wrote a rough first draft that concentrated on the fundamentals of the novel: plot and character. I then examined the manuscript, trying to identify opportunities to introduce details that would advance the story and add nuances to the characters, and made a list of the specific information I was looking for.
Once I did that, it was easy to do the research. In order to understand the special struggles of stand-up comedians, I purchased and read a novel about a stand-up comedian that was written by someone in the business. The comedian’s novel was different from mine, but it gave me insight into the special struggles of comedians. A basic book on Judaism helped to fill out my sketchy knowledge; it, too, gave me the details I was looking for. I had a harder time finding material on event planners, but I was able to track down some information online once my narrative was in place.
As my experience shows, researching a novel can be fun and not at all stressful once you’ve finished writing your first draft and know exactly what information you need to fill in the details.
Want to Read More?
- “How to Research a Novel: 7 Tips” by Chuck Sambuchino, an editor at Writer’s Digest: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/how-to-research-a-novel-7-tips
- “Researching Your Novel: The Ultimate Guide”: http://www.nownovel.com/blog/researching-your-novel-guide/
Have you done research for a novel? If so, what methods did you follow? Please post your comments.