Confused about fiction research? Many authors are. They spend so long researching their novels, that they either give up on their novel, or take years writing it. Tip: consider writing first, then researching later, when you know exactly what you need to research.
When writing fiction, use your imagination first, then do fiction research later
A couple of new short story writers have asked me about research. Do you research fiction? How much? What if you want to write about something you know nothing about?
Over the years, I’ve become quite good at research. By “good” I mean that I don’t use researching as an excuse to goof off. My rule of thumb: I have a ten-minute limit on research time for a specific question I MUST know before writing — by the way, these “must know” questions are few.
Your imagination beats research every time — indeed, too much research can kill your inspiration. Fiction is all about emotion. It’s your job to get your readers feeling. So you need to feel, first.
You can write about anything without doing a mile of research, just by relying on your imagination.
As I said in this blog post, Novelists’ Craft: Writing What You Don’t Know | Write a Book: Just Write A Book Blog:
“Please take this to heart: all writing is discovery.
Let’s say you want to write a thriller about a hit man (or a hit woman.) This will be a real challenge for you if you’re anything like me, and are squeamish about using snail bait, or swatting a spider.
Nevertheless, if I had a great idea for a book, and the main character happened to kill people for a living, I could write it. And so could you.”
You could write a your hit man book without doing any research for the first draft. You’d research specific queries — brand of gun, weight of gun, how to conceal a weapon, how to find someone etc — in your second draft.
Write first. Research anything you need to research once your first draft is done. Your imagination wins. You can imagine yourself into any character, and any situation. Feel… 😉
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Updated: October 12, 2016