I’ll just out and say it right now, there is a happy medium for researching when it comes to writing.
This holds true for both fiction and non-fiction. If you write non-fiction and you don’t research, then no one will want your book. And even in fiction, research is super important. Research gives you the basis for a realistic story and world, and that’s very important.
If you don’t do your research, people will be able to tell. If you’ve done your share of reading then I’m sure you’ve stumbled across a few books where you do a little fact-checking of yourself. Some of you may have even flinched a bit at some of the missed points.
If you research too much then you’ll never get around to writing your book!
The happy middle that you should aim for should mean your facts are all correct while you don’t waste all of your writing time on needless research. Don’t waste your time as you go down a rabbit hole!
My Take on Researching
I’m just going to say it from the get-go. I’m a bit of a nerd!
I spend countless hours researching topics like history especially. I probably spend just as much time looking up all sorts of scientific developments.
Why? Well, a lot of that is just joy reading for me. I’m a learner at heart, so I really like looking up all sorts of cool things. If I don’t have a book on the subject of my interest then I’ll do a little online research. If that doesn’t appease me then I may go and buy a new book. I’m a researcher.
But I don’t let my joy-learning cut into my writing time.
If I have to look anything up for a book I’m working on, I get in, get the facts, and I get out! It’s the getting out that is important, especially if you manage to find something that piques your interest.
Getting out is so important that I would go as far as to recommend that you set a timer for a few minutes whenever you start researching a subject during your writing time. Gauge how long you think researching your subject might take and maybe add a minute or two when you set your timer. Your writing time is sacred (not really, but treat it like it is)!
Do I Need to Research My Novel?
Yes, yes, and yes.
As I said earlier, wrong facts can stick out like a sore thumb to readers. In fact, some readers will put down your book because of it. Others will vow to never read another one of your books.
And if you’re writing a fantasy book, you’ll want to know at least a few things about history before you dive into it. You will have to know a thing or two about inventions before you go for it because people will be able to pick things out that are in your story and aren’t from the era you’re writing about.
For example, you can’t give your characters aluminum ripped arrows in a fantasy novel because aluminum can’t be refined with medieval means (except when your story actually tells the reader that someone made a breakthrough). Why? Well, did you know that it was so hard to refine aluminum that the Washington Monument in Washington DC has some aluminum on top of it because it used to be considered a precious metal!
Facts are the backbone of any story. Nothing beats actual experience, but researching a subject will grant you at least some credibility. Don’t fall into the trap of not researching anything and telling yourself that you can do whatever you want to because you’re an author. …at least if you’re writing a book in a universe that’s at least sort of like ours.
Should I Research History?
I do because there’s a lot you can learn from history. There are a lot of stories you can reference, base your story off of, and/or adapt.
And if you’re really fond of a certain era, you can even go as far as to write your book in that time. Or, you can write an alternate timeline to our own history. That’s the joy of writing, you can do whatever you please–for the most part.
I personally use a lot of historical events for my books, and the ones that I don’t reference historical happenings I later find out that something like it has already occurred!
No, I don’t follow events directly, although I probably could if I were using a more obscure story. Instead, I look at, say, a war from the 1800 and I think, “What if such and such happened here instead of this?” From there, I deconstruct the story a bit, add in my own characters, and then I “flesh out” the story.
Basing at least some parts from your story can really help you and make your tale all the more convincing!
But, don’t take my word for it. Next time you watch a movie, go ahead and look it up on the internet and see if there were any stories from the past that were referenced! You’ll be surprised how often it happens!