For NaNoWriMo I recently did an Instagram live with Molly Tullis about research and some of the tips and tricks I have for doing it. As you know, I love my research, so I thought it would be good to put all my rambling notes into a blog for anyone who might be interested in it. I’m going to put it in dot points so it doesn’t turn into another ramble because I can and will talk about it all day.
TOP TIPS FOR RESEARCH
#1 Keep your shit together
- Use a notebook, Scrivener file, Word doc, a notes app…use ONE place to put all your research so you don’t lose it or are searching through a hundred random scraps of paper trying to find that one bit you really need.
- Also keep a note of not only that really interesting thing you found…but WHERE you found it. Note down the book, movie, journal article, really cool podcast that you heard/read it so that you can reference back to it if you need to. If you are super organised make a Bibliography.
#2 Use the free Resources available to you (and there are many)
- Use libraries and ebay to source expensive reference books. Students will often off load text books they no longer need on places like ebay to make some extra money and you can get really good deals. I’ve gotten a lot of books this way.
- Use online resources. Not just Wikipedia (though it can be a good place to start). I’m talking about JSTOR, Gutenburg Project and Online University resources. A lot of uni’s like Yale are putting their lectures up as podcasts so you can get ALL the information you need without having to do any of the assignments 😛
- Google Translate, Earth and maps is your friend.(Please if you use Translate, re-google the phrase to cross reference it means what you think it does and vice versa)
- A lot of gallery’s and historical buildings have virtual tours that you can go on.
#3 Not all of your research needs to be used
- Learn everything you need to in order to feel confident writing in the world you have created. And then get started. You are always going to have extra things that pop up when you write the story anyway.
- Readers don’t need to know everything but it helps if you do. The more comfortable you are with your topic the more it will come across in your writing. You want readers to be enjoying the world you create and for that you need your descriptions to be seamless, but most importantly, relevant.
#4 Treasure Hunt (my fave bit)
- Keep your eyes out for hidden jewels, those facts that make you stop and say “shit, that’s cool.” You might not use it in your current book but those facts are worth noting down in case you want to use them in another book or series. ALOT of Tarot Kings is research left over from Magicians.
- No research is a waste even if it doesn’t end up in the book you are working on. It will hang out in the ether of your brain and make your writing more authentic…or it will mutate and become another book.
#Travel is nice, but not a necessity (or recommended in a pandemic)
- This is more of a side note that a dot point. Please do not listen to privileged advice from writers who say shit like ‘you have to go to a city to write about it.’ For a lot of us that’s not possible, and it’s also TOTAL bullshit. As above, Google maps and earth can literally give you the ability to cruise around a city from behind your laptop. It’s also important to remember that you are writing your fictional version of the city, and it doesn’t have to be exactly the same. It won’t be, even if you do go to that place.
- One thing I have found really useful is reading travel and food blogs of people who have been where you want to go. The whole point of travel and food blogs is that they are sensory, and you can get a really good sense of a vibe from them.
So that’s it folks, my top tips. I hope if you are doing NaNo it isn’t driving you too crazy.
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