Some people say “write what you know” and others say “write what you don’t know.” Well, which is it?
Depending on your genre and the amount of common sense you have, I think you should use your own judgement with that one.
I’ll use myself as an example (that means I’m writing about “what I know”).
In the past month I’ve been working on two novels. Both novels are the first book in a series. One novel, Hunter, is fantasy. The other, George Florence, is mystery.
Big genre difference, right?
Exactly. So I need to research different things for each novel.
As I write, I use the sticky notes app on my laptop and keep a list of editing notes; things I need to look up, chapters I feel are stupid and need to be taken out or changed, etc.
I keep this list because the point of the first draft is to get the idea down on paper.
With that being said, if I come across something I don’t know or something that I believe is inaccurate, I put it in bold. I make it up and bold it so that when I read through the draft I remember that I need to fix it.
Those “fixes” need research. And as I said before, each genre is different.
For Hunter, I kept a list that includes:
–Research all mutant powers: technical terms, what they do and how they work, etc. (including teleportation, electricity, flying, animal shape shifting…)
–Research gunshots to various areas of the body
For George Florence, I kept a list that includes:
–Research apartment buildings; rent, leases, how big they typically are, etc.
–Research fees for hiring private detectives
–Look up costs of different wedding rings
I don’t know about any of these things. I’ve never encountered a mutant or a taser, and I’ve never lived in an apartment or proposed to anyone. So naturally, I need to do some research at some point if I want my novels to make sense.
The funny thing is that some research will help with other novels. At some point I’m sure I’m going to need to know all about gunshot wounds for George Florence.
So whatever you research, you should take notes or bookmark the website. However when you research you should find some way to remember it or at least be able to go back and look at it.
One website I love looking at for research is called The Writing Cafe, which is on Tumblr. People ask questions directly to the person (or people) who run the site. They also reblog a lot from other Tumblrs and like to list websites for specific topics, which is very helpful because then you have an unlimited amount of knowledge at your fingertips. All you have to do is look through the sites.
I also love Pinterest. You can find anything on there. Some pictures lead to super helpful websites. Others… Not so much. But it doesn’t hurt to look.
Of course, there’s also Google and Siri, but I guess you could also go to a library every once in a while and look it up yourself.