In this guest post historical fiction author Kelly Gardiner shares some of the wonderful free resources that writers can use to make the most out of their research time.
‘Do research. Feed your talent. Research not only wins the war on cliché, it’s the key to victory over fear and its cousin, depression.’ – Robert McKee, Story
All writers need research. Whether you’re writing a memoir based largely on your own life, a story set in a neighbourhood you know well, a fantasy in a created universe, or a feature article, research can add depth, verisimilitude, and those telling details that further plot or character.
I write historical fiction, which involves more research than some other forms – luckily, I love the process of imagining, seeking, finding, interrogating and then integrating (or not) material that helps me populate an imagined past and draw its people.
So here are a few things I’ve learned that can help you, no matter what form your writing takes.
Find, don’t search
It seems so easy to look stuff up, doesn’t it? A quick Google search, and there’s a world of information at your fingertips. But is it what you really want, and is it any good?
Some tips on searching well: first, start with a broad query then refine it. You can add extra words to it if they are useful refinements, but don’t just keep adding terms. Think about what material you want to find. Who would write that? Try to imagine the words they would use to describe it. A good example is health information. If you want to see results from a whole lot of health forums on which people discuss their symptoms, use common words. If you want to read informed medical advice, search using terms a doctor or medico might use.