Editor’s Note: This is cross-posted at Arcadia Coach, the new venture I am working on with Edward Branley. Hope to see you there!
Writing research for your manuscript is nothing like you remember having to do in school, when the teacher or professor assigned you a topic you weren’t interested in, or you just picked it to be near the girl or boy you had a crush on. For your manuscript, you get to control all the aspects of the story from scratch, but be sure that your research is spot on.
Readers are smart, they know when you are trying to pull the wool over their eyes, and send them down the misdirection path. Become an expert. Tell all your friends, family, and even strangers in the grocery store line all your useless knowledge you are picking up in the process. You want to be able to discuss with your readers that you meet all the little details, and enthrall them with the stories of how you went in that direction.
Today with the advent of the Internet and social media, it is easier to get information that is further away from your location, in the far nether-regions of the world. [If you can find it, so can your reader base!] From the comfort of your couch, your local watering hole, coffee shop, or public library, you can find anything you are wondering about. No more waiting weeks for the InterLibrary Loan to arrive to find out it wasn’t the right one; sifting through card catalogs (what’s that?- see below), and microfiche and microfilm for hours, days, or weeks. Carrying a hundred books home to find the one line you think you need, only to return 99 of them the next day. If you were lucky, the librarian took a liking to you, and put stuff on the side if you told her what you were looking for.
Devil is in the Details
Be careful in how and where you sprinkle the details throughout your manuscript since you don’t want it to read like a textbook; more like “the reader can visualize what is in your head”. Keep them remembering where things were in the story, don’t overload them with every tidbit you know on the subject on one page. Call back to the earlier times in the timeline and in the story in various parts of the book. A little detail can go a long way in completing your manuscript.
Think about all the little details, yes.. sweat the small stuff. Food blogs, architectural drawings, what clothes people were wearing, even what was happening in the news at the time, can affect your ability to make sure your reader is totally enmeshed in your novel / manuscript. You want it to be seamless.
Make sure your research is in the right time period, including cars, ships, horse & buggies, trolleys … you don’t want to say the first car started driving down the street in 1850, when the first car, the Benz Patent Motor Car, didn’t hit the street until New Year’s Eve 1879.
No question is too silly or wrong. If you have an interest in it, it is a spark that you can use to bring knowledge to someone else who has the same question.
Oh, and most important: Have fun! If you are not enjoying the process, then it will show in your writing. Let the writing research take you down various rabbit holes… be sure you have a ladder to get out though!