Let’s face it–coming up with an awesome story with great characterization, strong plot, and perfect setting put you on the right path to write a book that grabs people’s interest. Every book, whether it is Historical, Contemporary, Fantasy, or Sci-fi requires detailed research.
I’m sure some of you reading this right now might be thinking “yeah, but I’m going to write a fantasy book in a world that doesn’t exist except in my mind, so why do I need to do any research?” Fantasy books transport us to an alternate reality, but an author of incredible Fantasy knows there are always elements of reality mixed in to keep us grounded. On top of that, it’s best to research how to build your world, and even study Fantasy Writing tutorials to help with creatures and sorcery (if you have that in your book).
I started my writing career with Texas History. My Publisher at one point said I could probably earn a Master’s degree because of the depth of knowledge on Texas History I had gained after the extensive research I conducted. Now I write Contemporary Romantic Suspense about Navy SEALs. For every single book, I’ve had to do a crazy amount of research, and, in this post, I’m going to share with you HOW I approach research.
- Know your subject matter. For my historical books, I had to become intimately aware of the forming of the Texican rebellion, the Mexican Army, the terrain of the land, clothing of the time period, speech patterns, and much, much more. So before I even started researching, I made a list of all the things I needed to know. With my SEAL novels, I’ve had to learn about Naval procedures, SEAL ranks, jargon, military equipment, and details about the crimes they were attacking, i.e. drug cartels, human trafficking, etc. Again, I began with a list.
- Google has a ton of info. Take everything with a grain of salt, though. Today anybody and everybody can post articles about a subject matter and the information is biased by their opinion or is just altogether false. Go through the articles, and, if there are sources cited in the article, follow those sources. Frequently, my research online led me to books with first-account information with true details, facts, and personal information invaluable to adding the “it” factor to your book.
- The Library is your friend. My local library knows me on first name basis and has helped me more times than I can count. If they don’t have a book you’re looking for, they are usually tied into a network and can get the book shipped to your library. Again, look at the sources in the book. It will lead you to even more information than you anticipated!
- Interviewing historians or people in the occupations you write about is invaluable. I had the advantage of friends in the Navy eager to talk to me about the way things work, different ranks, and even directed me to Facebook pages where Navy Sailors enjoy ragging on each other. I also got the opportunity to visit with SEALs and I have a notebook full of notes.
- Visit the location of your book if at all possible. My newest series is set in South Texas, and my family loaded up and took a road trip exploring the entire area, including the border crossings, so I could have pictures to reference. On top of that, we stumbled upon the perfect little town to be the setting for my series. I met with locals, talked to them about the area, and all of it has been incorporated into the series.
- Finally, check and double check! One of the SEALs I got the chance to visit with gave an incorrect acronym for an explosive tape the SEALs use when breaching an area. It wasn’t until I had taken all the info from this SEAL and did an extensive Google on everything he had told me that I discovered he had mixed acronyms for two different types of explosives. Not THAT big of a deal, but if someone familiar with military terms read that in my books, I would DEFINITELY hear about it in my reviews.
Research should be fun. Realize that, even if you aren’t writing a Fantasy, you’re still creating YOUR unique world full of characters and motives and goals. How exciting for you! With every book I write, I create a binder to contain my research, and I have a ton of binders now! Enjoy creating your Novel and embrace the beauty of research!