So around the end of February I started a series about illness, particularly mental and physical illness ((you can find those posts here and here)). Now, several months later, I’m finishing off the series with the topic of research: Why it’s important, how to do it, and how to do it well.
I’m going to keep this first part brief, since I went over it in both my Writing Characters With Mental Illnesses post and Writing Characters With Physical Illnesses post. Why is research important? Well, the simple answer is because you want to get things right! You’re a writer. You should be putting forth a pretty intense effort to get things accurate and realistic. And if you’re writing about things you haven’t first hand experienced or simply don’t know much about, how do you expect to get it right? To not offend people? ((Sidenote: If you aren’t writing about new things, you might want to reconsider that.))
Okay, so, you know why you need to do research, and you’re ready to get it right. But how? First off, cross-check your sources. I know, I just turned into your middle school English teacher. But you wouldn’t believe how many inaccurate websites there are out there, and not even always on purpose! Websites can be outdated, told from an unreliable perspective, or even just plain wrong. People put things up on the internet without really thinking about it ((no, I’m not talking about myself, fuck off)). Cross-checking your research and using only the most reliable and repeated information can help you tremendously.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to check every website that shows up ((you might be researching for until you actually die)). Two or three should do the trick. So don’t treat this like a college paper, then you just won’t want to do it anymore. And what good is that? You should enjoy planning your book. You should enjoy your book period.
Similarly to cross checking, stick to updated sources. While I’m sure most of you are doing your research online, there’s still a few hipsters who like to head to the library with a coffee on their weekends. And, honestly, I fucking respect that ((seriously my friend got up early to go to a fucking coffee shop in order to finish her chapter a few days ago and just GOALS)). But you should know that a lot of books in a public library can be outdated and therefore not helpful anymore. This doesn’t mean you can’t use the books- It just funnels back to cross-checking your sources ((And, this goes for online content as well)).
I have my own folder of research on my Drive, and have found it helpful to put the dates of when it was researched on with each document. If it’s too outdated, I know I need to research it again to make sure it’s still relevant. If it’s recent, I don’t have to research it again. It’s already all right there ((The ones without dates were researched before I started adding dates)).
Okay, so you’ve looked at all the books and words and websites and you’re sick of it, but you know you don’t have enough information yet. So you give up, right? No, you look at experiences– both your own and people around you. I’ve stressed before that you should be interviewing people, talking to people who have dealt with whatever it is you’re trying to empathise with ((because empathy is a vital part of researching)). So first: Put yourself in their shoes. Have you ever been in a spot similar? Have you ever been close to someone who’s in this position or a similar one? What did you do? How did it feel? And second: Interview people. Scroll through Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, blah blah blah. You can hit people up online or you can ask people in person. Additionally, I’m certain there’s videos upon videos on YouTube recounting first hand experiences, people who have dedicated their entire life to letting people know whatever there is to know about what they’ve been through. Look at their stuff. Gather the information you need to.
Finally, how do you know if you fucked up? Beta readers and critique partners, obviously. Okay, no, but seriously. At the end of the day you only know you fucked up if someone tells you. So what do you do when someone tells you you fucked up? You listen to them. You get second opinions. And you fix it. You have critique partners look over your word and, ya know, critique it, and then you send it to however many rounds of beta’s you have. And then you edit edit edit and then hopefully you have a manuscript that won’t offend/piss anybody off.
So that’s all I’ve got for today! Sorry this finale came so damn late.
I have one quick announcement before I end this blog post, however. I know I’ve been mentioning it literally everywhere, but I have a book up! I’ve been periodically ((Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays)) posting my nano project up on Wattpad and Tumblr, where it’s completely free to read! It’s an lgbt+ romance built around a warped concept of soul mates, and it’s super cool and I’m really proud of all the diversity I fit in there. I really love feedback, so go ahead and go check it out and let me know what you think!
Alright, that’s it! If you liked this, be sure to check out my mailing list to be notified each time I make a post. You’ll also gain access to things I don’t show anyone else, like excerpts that won’t go up on social media and announcements I won’t share elsewhere.