By Kristyn Fetterman, Writestream Publishing Contributor
When you get an idea in your head for a novel, it can be overwhelming to think of all of the necessary research that is associated with writing a book. However, without it your book would be lacking a ton of important elements and will likely turn your readers off. When you are facing your endless hours of research, use these tips to help yourself stay organized and sane.
The first step should be to figure out the “world” that your story will be taking place in. This is likely going to be the most complex part of your research because it is your base; everything else you create will be built on top of this information. You will need to figure out your setting, which will have to include the time period, geographical area, season(s), and influences.
Will it take place at a point in history? Will it be a dystopian sci-fi novel? For novels taking place at any point in history, you will need to research everything from food and clothing to political climates. Even if it seems like you will not be using much of the information that you end up researching, it is important to get your creative mind into the world you are setting up.
If you are writing a fiction book or a dystopian sci-fi book, you will have to create all of these elements. What are the people in your world wearing? What are the differences between social classes? What major events have occurred during the lives of the people in your world? How do people interact with each other? These are just the beginning of the questions that need answered for your world to seem real to your readers.
You want to check and double-check your dates, times and events if you are including any historical information in your novel. If you would like to have your novel take place during a war in history, you need to know everything you possibly can about that war. The same goes for any historical events. Make sure your facts are well researched.
You should always look up the date range that your novel will be taking place in. Even if you may not acknowledge any events that may have taken place during that time in your novel, you should at least be aware of them so you can skirt around them in your writing if necessary.
This part of your research will be primarily psychological and sociological. In order for your character to seem real, you should give them a history (before they existed in your novel) and a future (after your novel ends). This may seem ridiculous but it is important for you to establish a seemingly real person because it will make it easier for you to write about them in your novel. You will know how they would react to certain situations. You will know what they like and dislike and how they interact with other people.
It is important to figure out what drives and defines your character. Has something in their past changed them? Are they haunted by something that happened to them? Have they been betrayed and are seeking revenge? Have they been broken and are seeking healing? Give them a reason for doing and saying the things that they do and say.
Also, if you choose to have your character dealing with a mental or physical illness it is incredibly important to do extensive research on the illness. You need to know the facts about the illness, the effects that it would have on the character’s body and mind, as well as what a day looks like in the life of someone suffering from the illness. This goes for everything from major diseases and disorders to minor personality traits. Nothing will offend a reader more than reading an ignorant perspective on an illness that they live with everyday. Be as accurate as possible.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to researching for your novel is to just take your time. You are creating entire worlds! Give it time!
Editor’s Note: Already have a manuscript sitting in your computer? Need help with the writing and publishing process? Contact the Women of Writestream to set up your no-obligation consultation.