This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
As writers, we are living in a golden age for research. While our forebears had to travel to other countries or, at least, schlep to the library, we can do all of our research via the magic of Google. Kidding!
Kind of… There are plenty of excellent writers who are proud to do all of their research via their computer. The amount of information which is available online is truly amazing: maps, photographs, videos, blogs, academic papers, newspaper archives, and audio files.
Plus, you can find a specialist in any field you care to mention and, almost certainly, find a contact email to send them a friendly request for information.
Don't be afraid to ask people (politely!) for information. Most people are very happy to talk about their work or hobby and you can always offer to buy them lunch or promise to mention them in your acknowledgements.
However, don't discount other forms of research. Going to a location and experiencing it for yourself can be hugely beneficial. There are details such as the smell or feeling of the place which are difficult to get remotely.
When to do your reserach is also down to personal preference. Some people research for months before beginning to write then, when it's time to get creative, they put aside their books and get on with it.Other people research as they go, looking up information on an 'as-required' basis.
Alternatively, you can wait until you've finished a draft (or two) and then do some research to season your manuscript with juicy details and to fact-check stuff you've already included.
How much research will definitely vary depending on the kind of book you're writing. Historical fiction, for example, usually requires lots, but it really comes down to how far you are straying from your existing spheres of knowledge and experience. Plus, of course, your attitude to making stuff up and claiming 'artistic license'.
The one thing which seems to get repeated by writers talking about research is that, no matter how much you do, the finished book should wear it lightly. Resist the temptation to tell your reader all the really cool things you found out (or all the details you learned because, dammit, you did the legwork and you want it to show).
Your research is there to support your story, not the other way around.
[Image Credit: Free Digital Photos]