Reminder: Only three weeks left to enter the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest for unpubbed writers!!! Detailed score sheets, constructive feedback, and two acquiring editor final judges for each category!!!
Research is one of my favorite acitivites in the writing process. I know I'm probably in the minority, but I love researching for my stories.
Besides the ten craft-type resources currently on my desk, I also have a stack of research books related to stories I've written or plan to write. The titles? Mythology, The Mammoth Book of Pirates, The Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf, Indian Mounds of the Middle Ohio Valley, The Knights Templar, String Theory for Dummies, and Medieval Arms and Armor. That doesn't include the phone book and a US-Canada-Mexico atlas. Quite a wide range of topics, isn't it? Just call me a research nerd. :)
Why is research so vital to your writing?
Lack of it can destroy the credibility of a writer.
A great example of an author not taking the time to research: A writer friend (who happens to be a nurse) told me she once read a book where a transfusion was given to an injured person at the accident site--without cross-matching blood types and all the necessary precautions taken before such treatment would occur. When my friend contacted the author about the goof, the author admitted she hadn't checked her facts because she was under deadline.
Would you want to read another book by someone who didn't thoroughly research unknown subject matter? Under deadline or not, don't you owe it to your readers--and your characters--to know the material you want to include in the story?
I'm a strong advocate for writing what you know. However, that doesn't mean you can't learn new things to add to your plots and characterizations. Researching history is especially important if you're using actual events to help create your timeline.
Where will you find reliable information?
1) While Wikipedia is quick and easy, always find at least one other resource to support your findings. I tend to stick to university websites and expert-in-the-field blogs/articles online to discover the facts.
2) The non-fiction section of the library or bookstore can offer good resources as well. Check the publication dates if you're researching an area with evolving or expanding knowledge.
3) Attend presentations, workshops, and seminars by experts.
4) Interview someone with your character's occupation to get a firsthand account of what the job entails.
5) Ask people in your writing community. Many have hobbies, jobs, life experience, etc. that can help you with your research.
Above all--Don't guess. Take the time to find out the facts!
Let's take on a lighter subject next week. How about Independent Body Parts? :D
Romance...With A Kick!