Researching Your Work

When I was in school, Social Science was not my favourite subject. This may have had something to do with the fact that I was constantly in trouble for making my assignments too ‘story-like’.

I couldn’t help it.

I hated doing to research. It wasn’t as if I actually cared about politics or ancient Greece or whatever the teacher was going on about, so, in my mind, I couldn’t understand how it could be so wrong to make a boring assignment interesting.

I still don’t understand.

Now though, as a writer, I’ve discovered the value of research, which has helped to change my tune a little. I still don’t like research, but I understand the important role it plays.

James Patterson wrote in the Authors Note of his book, The Murder of King Tut, “‘JP Writing Style and Book Elements’ is a list of nineteen bulleted points that I keep within arm’s reach whenever I’m working. Point number eighteen is written in capital letters, because no matter how often I read it, I need to be reminded that it is of the utmost importance:

open-book-policy

RESEARCH HELPS. DON’T FAKE ANYTHING – NOT BRAIN TUMORS, NOT DROWNINGS, NOT EVEN A BEE STING.”

The thing I try and keep in mind is that there is always going to be someone smarter than me who will be reading my books. There is always someone who knows about the inner workings of submarines, hospitals, or airports. It’s best not to pretend to know about how to treat a gunshot wound to the chest, when a doctor might just pick up my book – and put it straight back down if I’m wrong!

In an age where information is just a click away, it’s very simple to research. If you can’t find what you’re after on the internet, try looking it up in a book at your library or even asking someone you know who might have knowledge about a particular area. If you know a doctor, pick their brain. If you know a mechanic, learn everything you can.

Research helps to make your book more believable and stops you from making obvious and unnecessary mistakes that might hinder your chances of getting published. My top two tips for researching are –

  1. Make sure the information you learn and put into the book is interesting.
    There’s not much worse than when you’re reading a book and you’re suddenly bogged down with tonnes of unnecessary information. Remember, even though you want your facts to be correct, you’re still writing a story, and it needs to be entertaining.
  2. When you feel overwhelmed by the research side of things, try taking a break or skipping ahead.
    Matthew Reilly once gave me a piece of advice. He said to make sure you have fun when you write, and ensure what you’re writing is something that you yourself would want to read. If you’re getting overwhelmed, and writing your tale is beginning to feel more like a chore than a labour of love, step away from the computer and get your wits about your again. In my experience, if I’m not in it, I just have to come back and rewrite it later again later, anyway. If I’m not enjoying myself when I write, it is reflected in my work.
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