How extensive is your background research before beginning a writing project? How extensive is it during your WIP?
I think research is key. It is an integral part of the planning process before writing and a great way to build up knowledge about topics you may otherwise have not learned about before.
For this past year’s NaNoWriMo, I decided to roll up my literary sleeves and seriously dig into some research. I took a trip to my local library and signed out books on the fantasy genre, medieval village life and heroines. I figured it was a great way to get inspired instead of waiting around for inspiration. It was also a way to build up my enthusiasm and momentum. Like many others, I waited impatiently for November to start so I could start writing.
Even now, I’m still working on my NaNoWriMo story: writing, outlining and researching.
But how does research add to our writing? How does it help us as writers? And why is it so important?
I think it helps in three ways, what I call the three C’s:
- Credibility: Incorporating facts and knowledge into your writing makes you and your story more credible. It also gives the story depth and realism, as long as you keep it to a reasonable amount of factual information. For example, if you’re writing about robots in a future society it’s helpful to check out books or webpages on society and technology, or look at the news for the latest robotic advancements. Some writers talk to subject matter experts. Some writers even may be knowledgeable techies themselves.
- Clarity: Researching different elements of our story makes things clearer and can help us organize our thoughts. Research can help us think in a more linear manner when organizing and writing your story because we start looking at what rich details we want to focus on and what we want to emphasize about topics. I think it gives you more confidence when writing because you know what you’re writing about instead of trying to make stuff up, which is much harder. My heroine is a healer and since she deals with a lot of medical conditions, it helped to research medical conditions and symptoms.
- Creativity: Conducting research can encourage creativity in your thinking and writing. Even if you’re reading a non-fiction book on a topic, you can get inspiration from a word, a quote or an idea presented. Reading can help you think in different ways. While reading a book called Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination, I was affected by the poetic language the author Richard Mathews used.
As an additional note, I think that the more you know about other aspects of life (especially aspects unrelated to writing) makes you a more well-rounded writer. An author whose work I’m reading right now–Robyn Schneider–studied bioethics as a graduate. It’s awesome because she finds ways to tie in this scientific thinking to her writing, highlighting the philosophical connections between science and life that I would have never noticed before. (I was never any good in science class).
Researching has given me a greater understanding of the fantasy genre and its conventions, the history of literary works and a sense of the historical period I’m mirroring in my story, even though it’s set in another world.