There are several keys to writing a book. Some I’ve covered, some I haven’t. Some are easy, some aren’t. But one of the most overlooked areas of writing fiction is research. Most writers don’t think of themselves as “researchers”. They just want to tell the best story they can. That’s admirable, but I believe that to make a story convincing it has to be realistic. To be realistic, it has to be researched. Most research is simple, straightforward, and can be found through a Google search in less than ten to twenty minutes. If a book is not properly researched it takes me out of the action as a reader. Here are some things that I’ve found in other people’s books which a simple internet search could have avoided.
A man hears a shot from a gun then sees the victim fall. If properly researched, the author should have known most modern day ammunition travels twice the speed of sound so the action would have happened in reverse. The man would have fallen and then the witness would have heard the gunshot.
If you’re writing about the military or soldiers, do not confuse military ranks. The US Army has no rank called “Admiral” and the Navy does not have “Generals.” It’s a five minute Google search to figure this one out.
If you’re writing any type of historical fiction, you better do some serious research. Don’t say George Washington pulled out his iPhone to Google Map the road to Trenton if cell phones didn’t exist in the 1700’s!
If you’re doing any type of setting or environment work. Guess what? You should be researching that area. Don’t tell me about the earthquakes in Florida because Florida doesn’t have earthquakes, they have hurricanes. You should know the weather patterns of your environment, the produce, the politics, the immigration, you should know everything.
Don’t write a book about robots and androids without researching cybernetics! Readers are smart, we’ll know.
If you’re writing about flying, know many Gs a trained person can pull before passing out or suffering serious harm. If you’re doing aerial battles, know weapon systems, fuel consumption, etc…
If you’re writing suspense/murder mystery then you should know a lot about police procedures and the legal system. Don’t tell me the CSI guys do the interviews like on one show I know but they don’t in real life.
Don’t tell me your horse galloped 200 miles in a day. Your horse would be dead.
If you’re writing a sci-fi novel about time travel, you better damn well research quantum physics and current time travel theories because it can get very confusing.
These are just some examples. But I want to stress balance. A writer can spend quite literally years in research. There comes a point, however, when “research” becomes an exercise in procrastination of writing. If you’re writing a western, you should know that the gunslinger was using a Colt Paterson pocket model 1837 five shot revolver with a .28 caliber percussion and 1.75” barrel length. But, as a reader, I don’t care. You can just say “Colt .45 revolver” and leave it at that. I’ll know what you mean.
Research tells me you cared as an author. You cared enough about your work to take the time to research its authenticity and accuracy. Don’t be a lazy writer.
I believe in a one to one ratio. For every hour of writing, you probably needed to do an hour of research. Since the Emerald Tablet is based in Greek and Egyptian mythology and culture, I read over 20 non-fiction history books and spent countless hours trying to capture the feel of these ancient societies. Even so, it was easy for me to say “I need to do more research”. Even today, as I begin writing book 3, I’m still researching. Don’t go overboard but make it realistic and believable for your readers when you’re writing a book. They’ll appreciate it and get lost in the story.