An adventure in research

I’m currently working on my next full length novel. Some people will tell you that  writing gets easier with each book. The  writing aspect does, I have a better command of the language, it’s easier to hit my writing goal (which at one time was a mere 300 words or a short page a day). I know if I get side barred that I will sit down at the page again the next day. I trust myself, if I’m tired take a nap and go back to the page. I keep track of my word counts every day on a calendar.

What isn’t always easier is staying on track when doing research.

For example, when I do research it’s easy to follow a trail and squander huge blocks of time. I can look up reference material for dead zones for cell phones in the mountains and find myself searching for a new phone.

I find it necessary to write a list of what I need to check or research go to it and then get offline! Do not pass Face Book in or out which means no playing Candy Crush saga… (sorry to my friends who need lives and extra moves.)

Research is a critical part of your book. It can be as simple as finding out the name of a high school in another city, or checking out the lay of the land by Google Earth. If you want your book to be credible, research is nearly impossible to avoid. After all, you want your story to ring true to the reader.

I once read a story in which the writer failed to do her homework. After the first three chapters, I was angry and frustrated. A short way into the book, my editor hat was on and I was looking for mistakes. Not a good reading experience. (I sent along the revisions to them and that is another story altogether.)

People spend good money on books, and it’s our job as writers to educate and/or entertain. It isn’t supposed to be about them finding mistakes that need corrected or being irked by flawed information.

The very word research conjures up all sorts of dry, dusty images, doesn’t it? Really, it’s more of a learning adventure. For my first novel, it was important that one of my characters learn to properly handle a gun. Research for that: I took a class that trained me in gun mechanics, how to load, properly handle and shoot, and the most important thing: knowing when to shoot. They also covered the legal ramifications should it become necessary to pull the trigger and hit or kill someone with bullets.

It added an amazing amount of credence to the story and added to my credibility as a writer. And, it turns out, I’m a pretty good shot. Not all research is time intensive; you may need to know the miles between cities, or how long it takes to travel from one point to another.

Your book may or may not hit the mainstream market, but if you write about a shootout and it lands in front of someone who knows, say, about guns, you want them nodding along in agreement with what you’ve put down on paper, not writing you a nasty letter about how you need to do your homework.

How can you make research an adventure?

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