Get Published – Research And How Not To Use It

Research is an important factor in the success of the novel. However it is essential that the new writer knows how to use it and how not to use it.
Writers tackle research in different ways. Some prefer to go into it in great detail before the writing starts, making copious notes and taking time to soak up as much information as possible. There is a danger here that the love of research will send the writer down other paths which may be interesting but will have little bearing on his purpose in other words, wasting time. Other writers, intent on the plotting, like to sort out research during the course of the writing, delving into specific points as they go along. This style of research can lead to ‘under-research’ or else can mean missed opportunities when the research could have led to new ideas for the plot.
Previous to the event of the internet, research had to be done in libraries; parish records etc. and was time-consuming. The vast resources of the internet are now available, yet writers should be cautious that the information found is correct and from authentic sources.
Of course it all depends on the genre as to how much research is required. Novels with an historical background need a great deal of researching. It is not only necessary to research the world events of the time to be accurate but also the day to day living of the characters set in that particular era. A household without electricity for example will have none of the amenities of the modern world.
This may seem obvious, but for many new writers, particularly young writers, a lack of real understanding and research of the period they are portraying results in absurd mistakes. This is the result of not enough research, where the writer is winging it, either through ignorance or just hoping no one will notice.
Backgrounds with a particular setting such as the coal industry, the copper industry, or farming in past centuries must be researched meticulously. Many readers are erudite in such matters, especially if historical fiction is their particular passion. It does not do to take the reader for granted. The writer’s credibility will be dented and the reader will put the book aside.
In historical fiction it is important too to understand the speech patterns of the period. Reading novels that were contemporary at that period can be informative. Modern idioms and slang creeping into dialogue of a past era can diffuse the atmosphere of the novel and throw the reader off.
Backgrounds of contemporary novels must also be thoroughly researched. If a novel is set against a specific background such as a hospital, for instance, then the writer must know how these establishments function. The same care must be taken with the background of crime novel, in particular police procedurals.
The genre of chic lit may seem easy and might appear not to need too much research as it represents the modern world. Therefore the culture of everyday life appears accessible. But older writers should take care and thoroughly research the mind-set of young women today. It will be glaringly obvious that the writer has no idea how young people think today, if the ‘young thing’ character pops into the pub and orders a sweet sherry.
What should the writer do with all the research once it has been collected? What the writer should not do is include it in the narrative, in the shape of large blocks of information and explanation to the reader. Some writers like to show off their erudition by including page after page of research, but this is counterproductive. This inclusion of the research will replace action and plot and will kill pace.
It is enough that the writer absorbs the information and uses it sparingly though out the novel. The research material should create a ‘historical atmosphere’, so to speak, in the writer’s mind so that he transfers this atmosphere seamlessly to the novel. In other words the tremendous work he has done in gathering historic material is not made obvious to the reader. In this way the reader is transported to the past era and ‘lives’ the action and atmosphere alongside the characters.

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