July 31, 2012

Research for writing

I don’t come out of an academic tradition, where research involves applications for funding and ethical approval along with a detailed exposition of methodology. Nor have I been a journalist in the usual sense, even when I was a magazine editor. I do understand about getting the facts right, and checking things, and information being as reliable as its sources, and giving credit where it is due and so on.

I’m thinking about research because the novel I have embarked on requires me to do some so I can write about subjects on which I do not already have expertise. For my second novel, Poppy’s Return I wanted to Poppy to go to Whitby, in England. So, as part of a holiday, my partner and I went to Whitby. That was a good call. All the places in my novels that have any significance at all are places I have been to, albeit for entirely different purposes from those of my characters. That, and checking dates and weather and the current locations of some art works and the habits of a few sea birds, and such has so far been sufficient research.

For this novel I have folders, both the sort that holds paper and the sort that live on my computer. And I have a fresh view on how the research can take over. It’s fun, and it involves the internet and the public library, both places I like to go. It’s easier than working out and writing a story, too, doesn’t require such hard thinking. So I’m being firm with myself, not reading and taking notes from every book that touches on my subject/s not saving every website into my electronic filing system. I’m looking for what I need to know so that I don’t write rubbish. Of course I will find out more than I could ever use—information is not the point of the novel, it’s a setting, a demonstration of my characters and what they are about.

There are writing programmes and apps that promise fool-proof ways of organising materials for writers and I decided not to spend the time learning to use one. I’m doing fine with my folders and a table or two for dates and names. 


  1. This has.piqued my curiosity (speaking as a researcher and friend. We all want to know more. Let me know if theres any research I can help with!

  2. Um. Glad to have you intrigued, but not ready to say anything in 'public' as it were about content yet. Too early days. Still tentative, but developing. P