Researching Your Writing

By on February 15, 2017
Researching Your Writing -

While some writers love research, for many of us it can feel like a huge undertaking. We love to create, to shape stories, to use our imaginations and invite readers into our made-up worlds -however, research seems almost the opposite to this. The rather dreary undertaking to check facts, to understand procedures - to make sure everything actually makes sense makes our eyes water and our ears bleed. In fact, we sometimes wonder if we really have to bother in the first place.

However, even the most imaginative, otherworldly, wonderfully bizarre books require research. Obtaining facts for your fiction can seem like a waste of time, and can indeed be very frustrating. What you must remember is that it is a necessary part of your job as a writer. Readers are happy to suspend their disbelief, to trust that you, the author will explain what needs to be explained and leave things that should be a mystery, well, mysterious. However, if they get to the end of your novel and it is clear you haven’t bothered to check your facts or have just been lazy with your writing so it lacks the necessary detail to be believed, well, then you can rest assured that your readers will let you know.

If, like me, you find the drudgery of researching what needs to be researched in your book a little overwhelming, a little creatively stifling, then finding a way to make researching a more positive part of your work is crucial.

So what can we do to make research fun?

Don’t mix business and pleasure.

By this I mean it’s sometimes best to keep your writing and your fact checking separate. It’s important, as you write, to make a note of the things you need to look up later, but don’t stop your creative flow to do it there and then. It can be the smallest details such as how far one city is from another and how long it would take to get there by car, or serious undertakings such as how to do a brain transplant. However, while you are in the writing zone you should do all that you can to stay there so while it’s good to highlight things you need to research along the way, don’t let these interrupt your writing.

Don’t leave fact checking until the very end

While the above point holds true, you should try to keep up with your research, and fact check as your story develops. At the end of every chapter go back and look at what you need to research and make that your next task. This is particularly pertinent if the premise of your book relies on a particular thing being true - it can be a whole lot of pain having to fine comb your novel trying to weed out all the incorrect references you have made about something, or, worse still, having to change or scrap your story altogether because you’ve got your facts completely wrong.

Be curious

In order to enjoy fact checking and research, you need to try and see it from a different point of view. You could try gamifying it, guessing the answer to your question and then seeing if you got it right and giving yourself points every time you do. Or just see it as an interesting way to learn new things!

Do it when you don’t want to write

We all have times where we simply don’t feel creative enough to sit down and get on with our writing, and it’s very easy for us to beat ourselves up about it. Just because you are not feeling your usual creatively dazzling self, it doesn’t mean you can’t work on your writing. When you feel like procrastinating why not do some research instead? You might start to see it as a welcome break from writing, rather than forcing yourself to when you aren’t feeling it, or just doing something completely unrelated, and then feeling guilty.

Perhaps you love it, but if you are like me trying to make research fun isn’t easy. At the end of the day however, if we want our writing to be the best it can be we need to resign ourselves to doing research - and these tips certainly help to make it that little bit more bearable.


Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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