How can I save time doing research for my novel?

You’ve finished the first draft of your novel, and started the dreaded editing phase.  As you read your own words, and make notations on questions you didn’t answer on the first draft, you realize that if you want to answer those questions, and still make them credible, you will have to do some research.

Research for fiction will range from fantasy, which doesn’t require much time in a library, (some fantasy does have research) to the truly historic novel which can require as much as a couple of years to do the necessary research.  When he was writing the book “Centennial” James Michener spent a few years at the Denver public library learning about the town of Greeley, in which Centennial was based.

This raises a very important point.  How can you save time on research while making certain your book has the right amount of information?  There are a few ways you can streamline your research, without ruining your credibility.

First, write what you know.  I know you’ve heard that before, but did you ever wonder why people always say that?  As far as research, there is nothing better than experience to cut down on time needed to get the information.  I’m currently starting a project that will involve some paranormal investigation.  I’ve just been spending the past couple of weeks watching and reading whatever I could on ghost hunting, but without experience how can I ever know what it feels like, so I’m going to do an actual investigation in June.

Second, ask the right questions.  This sounds obvious, but people go into research without a true focus and quickly get buried in the mountains of information, most of which will have nothing to do with your story, and you quickly become overwhelmed.  If you know the right question your search becomes focused and you can get only the necessary information.  Save all the other research for another book.

Another great way is to ask an expert.  Sitting in a library and looking through hundreds or thousands of pages to find that one bit of information can be tedious, and for the most part a waste of time.  If you ask an expert in the area of your query, you can get the information you need in a couple of minutes instead of a couple of months.

These are the best ways that I found to save time on research.  Remember, there are no true shortcuts to credibility. These methods are just ways to help focus your search so you’re not bogged down with so much information that your book never gets written.

Challenge:  While editing your book, and asking yourself questions, see where you can focus your search and save time on research.


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8 Responses to “How can I save time doing research for my novel?”

  1. gigi1953 Says:

    I loved you blog, Allen! Good points and suggestions!

  2. Neko Kin Says:

    This is something I’ve been wondering about. I’ve not started a novel yet but the one I do have an idea for will need research. Thanks for the advice, Allen!

    Neko Kin

    • apb148 Says:

      Even something small, like blogs and articles take some research, and I’ve had the problem. These methods were my solution. Thank you for the comment.

  3. cruizen4u (Cindy) Says:

    Allen, you know I was just thinking about this for a new story I was starting to write. The only thing about it was it is all fantasy but the main character is going to be a knight. Research is what I have been doing. For the clothes they wore, their characteristics, etc. I ran into a problem though. They were supposed to be God fearing men, but yet they pillaged and raped women. I am really having trouble with this. That is why my main character will fight the urge for this and be a real God fearing knight all the way. Does this sound stupid?
    BTW, I really liked your blog. It had very good suggestions that have helped me quite a bit and thank you for your continued support as a writer. Take care!

    • apb148 Says:

      Cindy, you are right on track. There was raping and pillaging, and it was done “in the name of God” but it was not done by God fearing people. History has given us many generalizations, and you’ve stumbled on one. Most of the knights were well disciplined soldiers with families to return to. Your knight was more the rule, not the exception.
      It sounds to me like a great idea.

  4. Tamara Hughes Says:

    Great suggestions, Allen! And good luck on your ghost hunting adventure in June. Sounds really interesting.

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