How to Research Your Novel

Welcome to Writing Mondays!

During the pre-writing stage of my WIP, I researched the careers of my characters. At the time, I couldn’t think of anything else I needed to investigate. But as I write my novel, I find myself stopping to look at maps of Montreal and Nova Scotia to ensure accuracy. I’ve had to stop to find information about palliative care, Montreal hospitals, dumpster diving, and hoarding.

While I’ve been following Sarah Domet’s instructions in 90 Days To Your Novel, I wondered if perhaps I had missed something. Why was I spending my writing time doing research? I should have done all this before hand. Maybe things do come up as one works. I’m not sure. I performed an internet search on researching a novel as well as referred to a couple of writing books I own and discovered that there is little out there.

Here’s a summary:

  • Determine what you need to know and how much you need to know.
  • Determine where to research: Internet, reference books at the library, museums, buildings like stately homes for historical stories, and interview experts or people with first hand accounts of an event. I’m going to add one that wasn’t mentioned: other novels. I love Charles Dickens. He wrote a great deal about the daily life, society and especially the plight of children in Victorian England. At the time, not much was being recorded about children’s lives so a Charles Dickens novel becomes a primary source of information.
  • Always use more than one source and cross-reference facts.
  • Stick with primary sources when possible.
What do you think? Do you stop to research as you write? How do you go about researching your novel? I love to hear from you. Leave a comment.

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  1. #1 by Patricia Caviglia on September 1, 2011 - 11:38 PM

    I have a feeling that doing research as we write is as inevitable as adjusting our outlines.

  2. #2 by patriciasands on August 29, 2011 - 12:31 PM

    You are so right about using other novels for research and I loved that you used Charles Dickens as a example. He’s one of my favourites! I research before I begin writing but then find that I need to continue during the process as new issues arise. Thanks for continuing to post good information about the writing process!

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