Research – Love It or Hate It

Hey, SE Readers. Joan with you today. 

I have a confession to make. When I first began writing fiction, I hated to do research. I didn’t want to bother with such mundane tasks. Once I even wrote a blog post titled “Research, A Necessary Evil.” 

I’m not sure why I had such an aversion. I’ve always loved history and trivia. In general, I’m a curious person and there’s no telling what might pique my interest.

But with writing, I was like “Thanks, but no thanks.” Maybe I wanted to adhere to the adage, “Write what you know.” Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to discover I knew very little. 

The setting of my first novel was in a fictional Texas town during the horrible drought of 2011. I lived through that time. I experienced the better part of two months where the daytime temperatures reached triple digits. I saw streams dry up that had never done so in my lifetime and the water levels drop to all-time lows. 

I lived in fear of wildfires spreading into my neighborhood and knew of friends who had to evacuate their homes. I’d lived through it, so I knew all there was to know, right?

Wrong! I didn’t begin the book until almost three years later, so I couldn’t rely solely on my memory. I was pretty sure part of the space shuttle was found in a lake because of the low water levels, but which one? There was also an entire town that was in danger of burning, but I couldn’t recall the name.

Because I wanted to include those real-life events in my book, I had to get it right. There are lots of savvy readers out there who are quick to point out factual errors. I turned to the Internet for information and ended up getting two books out of the deal. Also, I discovered research is fun (and addictive).

While writing Gold Wings, my husband and I visited the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, now a museum in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Probably one of the most fun projects I wrote was a time-travel short story. Not only did I have to research the modern-day United States Navy, I needed facts about America during World War II. I had questions like “What was the price of a hamburger in 1943?” and “What naval bases were in operation at that time?”

These days, information is at our fingertips via the Internet. We no longer have to go to a library and search through dozens of books. And who knows? While digging for information for one story, you might find something that will generate another idea.

One word of caution—always make sure you use reliable sources. Just because something is posted on the Internet doesn’t make it true.

Do you love research or hate it? What is one of the most interesting things you’ve encountered? Please share in the comments.

115 thoughts on “Research – Love It or Hate It

  1. I like research, Joan, and I’ve always like it. I wrote several publications for work purposes before I started writing fiction and my research skills were honed considerably during that time. I used 22 different sources for the writing of A Ghost and His Gold. My issue is going down a rabbit hole and wasting all my writing time going off on tangents.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m guilty of going down those rabbit holes as well. You’re wise to use multiple sources in your research. Amazing how things can differ – people’s memories, etc. Thanks for stopping by, Robbie!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Research – Love It or Hate It – Blogul lui Roman

  3. I am quite new at research so I kinda don’t like it as such, as there are those huge PDFs with big words, it makes my head ache.
    But there times (rare though) when I find something really interesting and I wanna know more about that so it becomes fun.
    PS I am in my teens (17)😅

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not wild about those huge PDF files, either. I’m one of those “tell me what I want in a few short paragraphs” type of person. And kudos to you for pursuing your dream of writing at such a young age. I wrote my first novel when I was 17, ended up throwing it in the trash, and didn’t get back to writing until well into my adulthood.

      Like

      • I am not into writing books and stuff right now.. like curently it’s a hobby for me.😅
        And yes, even I am that type of person but research is not only a part of writing books, one has to research for every thing, speech, projects, exams, report writting and many more so sometimes you gotta refer those PDFs too, especially when your subject teacher wants you to go through some.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. My respect for writers who always do so extensive research to enable the readers an authentic experience. I love investigative research, when I can prove anything to someone – preferably politicians and church people Lol. :-)) Am i wicked? :-)) Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Tuesday 30th March 2021 – #Poetryreading Frank Prem, #Research Joan Hall, #Review Judith Barrow | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  6. I hate research, which is why my current WIP has been stalled for two years. It covers a span of four hundred years, and doing the research to figure out what life was like at each stage just sucks the enthusiasm out of me. Lol! I haven’t given up yet, though. Now, it’s a challenge, and I refuse to lose. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I write scifi so I’ve always loved research, perhaps a bit too much. It’s far to easy to get lost in the research and suddenly a day has gone by without a single word written. There’s also the danger of liking the research so much you want to hit your Reader over the head with it. -cough- Generally considered to be a bad idea.
    I’ve learned to weave the most important bits into the action rather than presenting them as an info dump. It’s more work, but why write something that 99% of Readers will skim or skip altogether?

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’ve wasted entire days (or hours of writing time) with research. I have a scene in my WIP where I explain moon cycles. Part of it is needed for the story but I went a bit overboard. Time for edits! LOL

      Liked by 3 people

      • Oh! I feel your pain. I once did a whole thing on traps and snares. It was wonderful. And every last word ended up in outtakes. The scene was much stronger by the end but… -sigh-

        Liked by 3 people

  8. I have always done small amounts of research for clarity on details for my books. At the moment I have been researching for a possible short story or novel, an occurence in my area in the late 1800’s. My question is how do I get from the research to the story. The story I would like to write would be a fictional mystery using historical facts. I’ve collected lots of information but have not heard the creative spark that will set me off. Are there any specific details I could check out that might engender that spark and get me started? Thanks for your blog and thanks to my writer’s group partner who sent me the link. Blessings Janet

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi, Janet. First of all, thank you for stopping by today, and I hope you found this post useful.

      If you’re researching a particular time or incident, there must be a story somewhere in your mind. I wish I had an easy answer to your question, but I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” for every writer. Personally, I’ve been inspired on numerous occasions by the words of songs. The opening scene of a novel I published two years ago was from “Lyin’ Eyes,” a song by the Eagles. The original scene was much different.

      I’m what I call a “planster” (part planner and part writing by the seat of my pants). When I get an idea, I have a general idea of how I want the story to go. I only do a brief outline, because ninety-nine percent of the time, my characters will take me in a different direction than I planned. I’ve also used real-life events and personal experiences in my books. Sometimes I get ideas while driving, maybe from something I see, or a thought just pops in my head.

      I don’t believe writing should be forced. I think an author should be passionate about what he or she writes. For instance, if you don’t like science fiction, your writing will show, no matter how much you try otherwise.

      But back to my original thought. You’re researching this for a reason, so I believe the desire is there. My best advice is to listen to your inner thoughts. The spark may come when you least expect it. When it does, the words will flow.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Thanks for bringing up research, Joan! Like you, I wasn’t excited about doing research, either. But then, my foray into teen/ya scifi started when I became curious about a living artist who sees millions more colors than normal because of an extra set of color cones in her eyes. I looked up Tetrachromat and it led me to one of my characters. Subsequently, I’ve learned about Native American cultures, some of the most fascinating places on earth, and the many types of aliens people have reported encountering. Research gets me excited about things I never thought would interest me, like quantum physics and the sounds planets and quasars make (which have been recorded.) Did you know that everything, including colors, resonates, and that our planet has an ideal frequency? Neither did I. Now that I know, I’m busy writing the next series. I thrive on research! Thanks for putting a positive spin on something many people view as a chore. It truly is an adventure.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Wow, you really have done your research! (No pun intended.) Once I got started, it’s hard to stop. I have to watch myself to keep from going down rabbit holes. Often what should take thirty minutes can easily turn into hours and take away valuable writing time. Thanks so much for stopping by today.

      Liked by 4 people

  10. I was surprised to see you visited the Lexington in Corpus. My dad was a naval aviator and served on the Lexington. My GRL’s inspiration came from a trip my sister and I took to visit the ship back in 2009. To walk the halls of our dad was an amazing experience.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Love it! ❤ I even research when I write poetry… Researching “whitetail deer” for a poem about a fawn discovered in the back field last June, our eyes were opened a world of wisdom. Did you know you can distinguish a female from a male fawn by the shape of its crown? We discovered ours was a girl!

    Liked by 4 people

  12. A great post, Joan. I also have a love/hate relationship with research and prefer hands-on rather than just reading about it. For example, my current WIP is set on a horse ranch (which I know nothing about). So, I’ve visited ranches and interviewed people who own horses. One of the most fun things I did was visit a horse sanctuary. The stories that woman shared will definitely weave their way into my book. 🙂 Of course, it’s not always possible to do that kind of personal research, as you mentioned about different time periods. I’ve had to look up things like when was the full moon in June 1982 and crazy details like that. I want to get it right. Thanks so much for sharing! Here’s to accurate research!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Jan – looking up the date of a full moon isn’t crazy. Just wait until you hear about my upcoming novel. I looked up full moons from 1885 and then some! 🙂

      I do agree that visiting a place or talking with experts is best. And we can get some fun trips out of the deal.

      Liked by 4 people

  13. I’m another one who loves research, Joan. I’ve been known to fill entire notebooks with research for my novels. I loved doing the research for both my Point Pleasant Series (the Mothman, men-in-black, UFOS, ancient curses) and Hode’s Hill (18th Century spiritualism, cemetery folklore, folk memories). And because the PP series was set during both the 1960s and the 1980s, I had a lot of pop cultural to research too, So much fun!

    Liked by 5 people

    • I love it now and have particularly enjoyed the research I’m doing for my new series. I admire you for writing a story set in the 80s. I still think of the 80s as “modern times” but so much has changed since then. My upcoming short story is set primarily in the 1960s and I had a blast with it.

      Liked by 5 people

  14. I enjoy doing the research almost as much as I enjoy the writing, so I’m fortunate in that respect. I’m writing what I hope will be my first historical novel. When I started it years ago, I was basing it on a story that has been told for probably 200 years, and I had taken it the be true. Knowing I needed to get all my facts right in the novel, I delved into history books and court records to identify written documentation of the event at the core of my book. Much to my disappointment, this centuries old story turned out to be a myth. Needless to say, I’ve had to completely redesign my novel. Rule number 1: Do your basic research first!

    Liked by 5 people

  15. I suppose this will be an odd comment because I love research, even just for the fun of it, I like to know things> But when writing it mainly flies out the window as I like the scope to write whatever I wish. That said my two historical fiction novels follow the facts (as far as they are known) exactly.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Confession: I’ve done the same thing – research something just to satisfy my curiosity. I agree that even though we write fiction, we should get the facts as accurate as possible. Thanks for visiting today.

      Liked by 4 people

  16. Love it! Good thing too, because true crime requires mountains of research. I had to laugh about your not knowing which lake the plane fell into. I’m working on a local crime, and you can’t believe the amount of false narratives the townsfolk spread around. Thankfully, I have all the case files. If I didn’t, rumors and innuendos could lead me down endless rabbit holes. Relying on people’s memory is a dangerous thing to do.

    Great post, Joan. 😀

    Liked by 4 people

    • Sue, the kind of research you do would be fascinating. You’re right, people’s memories aren’t always accurate.

      And you’d think I’d remember something as significant as where they found part of the space shuttle. Especially since it happened practically in my back yard and the discovery didn’t come until eight years after the explosion! 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

  17. Pingback: #ReblogAlert #Sharing – Two Great Posts | The Write Stuff

  18. I think you’ve struck a nerve with this one, Joan. I’m sure there are writers who detest research, especially if they’re new at it, but many of us love it. It’s having an interest in a large variety of things and issues that draws most of us to writing to begin with, I think. And I’m 100% in agreement with you that nothing could be more important, no matter the genre. There will always be details on personal quirks or trauma issues or locations that need to be just right in order to be believable.

    I write small town drama about areas I know very well, and people who are amalgams of the folks I’ve lived among all my life, but I still have to research many things. And unlike some, even though I used to love physical books, libraries, and dictionaries in years gone by (not for writing at that time, but because I love learning, in and of itself), I’m thrilled that I now have access to vastly MORE books, libraries, and dictionaries via the internet. With pictures, videos, and diagrams, to boot. And I never have to leave home to access any of it.

    I’ve written about PTSD, strokes, and leg amputation with much more accuracy than I ever could have managed from memory, even though I’ve known people who’ve gone through all of them. For instance, my younger brother had a massive stroke at age 49, and even lived with us before he passed away three years later. I’d spent time talking to his doctors and had a fairly good understanding of what had happened to him and what his prognosis was. Yet, I still had to research carefully to get all the details correct, including the proper medical terminology. While not every reader will know the difference, many will, so as you say, it’s very, very important to get it right. I also include a lot of wildlife and local habitat in my books, for atmosphere, and sometimes because various scenes center around it. I’m extremely familiar with much of this from years of birding, hiking, and canoeing, but there are still things that I have to double check to be sure I haven’t forgotten something critical, or because it entails an area (or a critter) I’m not as familiar with as I am others.

    Your points ring true in every regard, and I really enjoyed this post. (I also realized how very far behind I am on my reading, and now I want to grab a couple more of your books, and move them ALL up on my Kindle!) Thanks for a great topic today. Sharing! 😀

    Liked by 5 people

  19. I enjoy research. I find it addictive. The upside is that you learn while you are researching. The downside, you can spend way too much time on it neglecting your WIP. I have done that several time. Sometimes I have more research than the actual book I am working on.

    Liked by 5 people

  20. I fall down that rabbit hole all the time. I love to research. Some of the most interesting information I unearthed (and that wasn’t meant to be a pun) was on ancient artifacts and how they may or may not relate to aliens.

    Liked by 6 people

  21. I love research. I’ve been known to abandon my WIP for days because the research was so interesting. I created the Research Sirens for my blog that try to wreck my projects with endless research. I’ve nearly moved into constant research these days. I do a bit of snooping every night before bed on topics for future storyboards.

    Liked by 5 people

  22. While writing The Glade, I researched about the standing stone in the Forest of Dean. I discovered lots of folklore around the stone, which I hadn’t known about. And then I hit gold … leylines. Apparently, they don’t just run beneath the stone but it’s like a grand junction. My imagination lit on fire, and it was perfect for the book. It ended up being a much bigger word count than I’d planned, lols. I made a fictional village but based it on an actual village in the forest, and one reader who lived there, recognised the village and said I got it so right that he felt like he was walking down the actual street. I’d been years before but relied on Google Street View for the book, and it looks as if it worked excellently.

    Like you, I always dreaded research, and then I got the bug. I love your line “Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to discover I knew very little.” That had me laughing out loud in recognition!

    Great post, Joan 🙂

    Reblogged this on: https://harmonykent.co.uk/research-love-it-or-hate-it-story-empire/

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  23. Pingback: Research – Love It or Hate It | Story Empire | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

  24. Like many, I’m dependent upon research and I’ve come to love it. I try to travel to the areas mentioned in my book, so I can walk the streets, eat at the restaurants, and get a feel of the area. But that is just a small part of the research. The deeper and more timely work takes me into the heart of political drama and military engagement, into worlds I am only now beginning to understand. I have spent days researching in order to write a chapter or a few pages. It’s demanding work, and it’s addictive because one tidbit leads to another and there is always more to understand.

    Liked by 6 people

  25. I love research, too. In my published historical fiction book set in Roman Britain, I had a lot of research to do, obviously, as I’m not a historian. I learned a lot about the time. Similarly with my current novel, that I recently sent to the publisher. My protagonist in that one ( (Viking era) is a healer, and I had to do a lot of research into herbal lore and healing, and to check what plants would be growing wild. Also, diseases. What symptoms would a particular disease have, and what would it be called in those days?

    Liked by 6 people

  26. I do enjoy research, but I have to be careful and not fall into the rabbit hole, especially when I’m on a deadline. An hour of research can suddenly turn into hours. One interesting fact uncovered often leads me to another and another!

    Liked by 9 people

  27. I still do prefer books to do my research, over the years it has led to the establishment of a personal library which I enjoy browsing in whenever I like. screens are not my preferred tabloid rather a necessary evil, call me old fashion but I like the real thing to turn the pages in.

    Liked by 8 people

    • There is something to be said about holding a book in your hand. We had a set of encyclopedias when I was growing up. They would certainly be outdated now, but I wish I still had them. Thanks for stopping by today.

      Liked by 3 people

    • It was a scary time, to say the least. But it easy to forget. Maybe one day we’ll forget COVID? 😀 Seriously, relying solely on our memories can be disastrous. Thanks for stopping by today, Janet.

      Liked by 4 people

  28. I know what you mean about getting it right. Not only because informed readers will point out errors, but just on principle. A couple of my novels involved aspects of World War I. I did a lot of research to get the basics right because that war was too awful and important to trifle with. And while writing a more recent novel, I learned a lot about Luxor, Egypt–both its ancient history and recent culture. Also geography–I’ve pored over Google Maps for hours figuring out how long it would take to get from A to B. Some reviewers said they were surprised that I hadn’t actually visited the place in person (which I disclosed in an afterword). Final thought: research is like an iceberg. Only a small part of it shows in the actual book, but you have to do it all to be able to write with authority.

    Liked by 10 people

    • Good point. We don’t have to become experts but just know what we need for our stories. Sounds like you really do your research about places. Several years ago, I wrote a short story set in a fictitious town in the Southwestern United States. I didn’t name the state but I had in mind Northern New Mexico. I took a scene to my writer’s group and one person commented that she pictured the area around Santa Fe, which was what I hoped for. While I had visited the area, it had been several years, so I was especially excited that I’d got it right.

      Liked by 4 people

  29. Great post and question, Joan. I think I’ve always been a fan of research and luckily its become so much easier with the internet over the library and micro film. When I wrote about the 80s I thought I’d remember more details than I did. It required quite a bit of research down to the year VCRs became a common household item. I always want to be accurate as possible including the correct species of a bird outside the window. And you very right, you never what fun facts you’ll run across that will inspire.

    Liked by 9 people

    • As I told Mae, I still tend to think of the 80s as modern times, but so much has changed. A fun time to write about, however. I remember when we bought our first VCR, but I wouldn’t have a clue what year they first became popular.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I still think of them as modern times too, Joan. I don’t remember the year we got our VCR, but the first movie we bought to play on it was ET.

        Liked by 4 people

  30. Oh man, do I ever love research. I’m so much the opposite of how you used to be that it gets in my way of writing. I get lost down rabbit holes for days.

    Once, I was researching to find a small town that was identical to my own (for a story that never got written) and the next thing I knew, I was reading about Easter Island, a doctor that did surgery on himself, and a fella that was sadly kept alive after standing in the core of a nuclear meltdown.

    Like I said, the story that I intended to write never got written. Surprised? Lol

    These days I have to try to remind myself to get back on the road I was travelling and out of the rabbit hole. Lol

    Happy researching!

    Liked by 12 people

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