Research for a novel can be a double-edged sword. One the one hand, you can really get in-depth about the history and applicability of something or someplace, which helps shape your characters and the events happening around them.
On the other hand, you can get sucked down a research rabbit hole and lose a whole lot of writing time searching for tidbits.
Good research can really make a book, and it’s a fine line between really knowing the history of a person or place and getting bogged down on what’s essentially a small tidbit of information. So here are three research strategies that can help you get the job done:
- Statistica.com – Found this quite by accident as I was researching which states grow the most hops for beer. It was a tiny piece of my novel – not important to the plot at all – but I wanted to get it right. This site has a subscription service if you need something more in depth or on an ongoing basis, but for a one-off question like “Which state grows the most hops in the USA” it was exactly what I needed. Just type key words in the search box and you’ll get a matching statistic that can either give you a quick answer or point you to where you need to go for deeper research.
- Scholar.Google.com – Type the word “scholar” in front of your normal google.com and find a scholarly list of research papers, articles, patents and case law on any subject. It streamlines Google and limits it to academia, which can really pare things down.
- imb.com, Netflix.com, Amazon.com – Start your search at IMDB (the Internet Movie Database) and look for documentaries on places, people and events. Many IMDB users put together “favorites” lists, particularly in documentaries. Now take information and look up the documentaries on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video (if you have them) or even YouTube. I spent an hour or two this weekend learning all about Iceland, and it was tremendously fun and helpful.
Remember, it’s up to you to police yourself and not spend all day reading instead of writing. Not writing means not finishing and the only way to publish a book is to finish the damn thing. Use these wisely!