Monday, January 12, 2015

Researching the Novel


Many people have asked how I go about digging up the necessities to a story. Do I research before? During? And what am I looking for? Do I ever decide it's too much and move on to something else?

There's a billion questions, all of which have a different answer, depending upon what I'm writing (novel, short story, article, legal memo, et cetera). 

But, for the most part, for the full length novel, I stick to a basic plan, regardless of what genre I aim to tackle. Now, remember, I'm not saying this is the right way or the only way. It's just, quite simply, my way. And it works for me. So, here we go.

1. Allowing the story to develop in my head. This sits at #1 for a reason, because everything that follows still leads back to #1. Stories usually begin in my head with a little flame, a flicker of an idea. They happen at random. Maybe I'm watching a movie, maybe it's a song (this occurs a lot), or perhaps it's owing to some event happening in someone's real life (yes, I pay attention to what you say... you have been warned). From there, I feed the idea. Give it a little boost. Which leads to...

2. Listening to music that inspires. Interesting enough, some--SOME--music works across the board. Writers, if you use music for inspiration, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's Not Over by Daughtry is one of those songs for me. Makes the cut to every book soundtrack. Otherwise, it just depends on rhythm, harmony, notes, key, and the way all that melds together, and THEN how it leads the story churning around in my head. I keep a working playlist on Spotify that stays on random/repeat wherever I go. For this current WIP, you'll notice what's building characters and plot by what I post each Friday.

3. Scanning for pictures that create... well... the right picture. Yesterday, I spent an hour looking up photos of Berkeley Square in Westminster. Why? A fair bulk of my current story takes place there. I keep a folder within the manuscript folder specifically for pictures. In it, you'll find landscapes, buildings, faces (very important), costumes, and, sometimes, even animals. Whenever I need a refresher, I go to my picture folder. Whenever I need to be reminded of setting, I go to my picture folder. Yes, folks, a large amount of what a writer does is handed over to imagination. But sometimes we need a little help. :)

4. Reading the genre. This is pretty self-explanatory. If I'm writing historical, I'm reading current historicals. It's important to remind yourself what's out there, what's selling, what you're up against. In that same breath, however, I try to stay away from authors whose prose influences mine way too much. For me, Janet Mullany, Julia Quinn, and Julie Anne Long make the top of this list. Any of those marvelous ladies' work will (unintentionally, of course) bleed over into mine, if I'm not careful. 

5. Compiling a research folder on my online bookmarks bar. By the end of a novel, this folder will be full. Latin translator, Google maps, historical accounts and letters, Wikipedia pages (but be careful with these!), recipes, fashion plates, historical indexes, and the list goes on and on. I put it at the forefront and add to throughout the course of the novel. If, for the sake of accuracy, a scene requires me to stop and research, I always, always save that page to the folder. 

For certain. there's more to the process, but these are some of the most important assets to my personal writing process. Hope you enjoyed reading. Have a great day!

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

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1 comment

Andrew Leon said...

Historical has never been something I aspired to write, but I had a brilliant idea for one last week that I will have to pay attention to at some point.

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