Sunday, February 13, 2011

Excuses for doing writing research

One appealing thing about being a writer is what you get to do in the name of 'research'. Particularly if your novel, like mine, is slightly historical (as opposed to slightly hysterical, although it is sometimes).

Aside from a recent writing gig where I had to 'research' pubs, cafes and bars (which was oh, so difficult!) I have bought, borrowed or borrowed indefinitely heaps of books on 19th century Australia in the name of researching my novel:

What did people do for fun in the 1800s? Maybe I should buy a book about it (Geoffrey Blainey's Black Kettle and Full Moon, for anyone who's randomly interested in the lives of 19th century Australians)

How did they speak? Hmm, better raid Mum's bookcase for stories written at the time (The Anthology of Colonial Australian Gothic Fiction is coming in handy).

How did they dress? Time to go to the museum...

Trust me, if you're a history nerd like myself, it's fascinating. And for a writer, there's the added bonus that doing 'research' is an inexhaustible source of procrastination. I may not have achieved my 700-word target for the week, but by studying up on the Indian Raj down under, I feel like I'm still working on the novel.

Does anyone else find themselves doing this? Anyone who just 'had' to do or buy anything in the name of writing research?


  1. For my next story I shall set it in a chocolate factory next to a pub above a cat shelter...


    AWwww wow!!! I can't wait to discover what your novel is all about!! Sounds fabulous - Indian Raj, fun in the 1800s.... GOOD LUCK and I say you can never do too much research in the name of your Novel!! Oh yes!!!

    I was lucky that when I was writing my first draft of my current wip - I was at that time living with my ex who was crazy about canals and boats and so had all the literature I could pilfer!!! So my story uses lots of boat and canal references - and I'd like to think the setting sounds authentic!! It also helped that we used to have breaks on his narrowboat too!! LOL!

    Take care

  2. Love doing research!! Heaps of fun for fantasy books too :)

    The Arrival, only .99c on Amazon

  3. I've had to watch lots of science fiction movies. Yeah, what a drag!

  4. Old Kitty - That sounds like a great setting! Love the idea of canals. Would be good for a crime story.
    Actually, a chocolate factory could be good for a murder mystery too...

    Nicole - Yes, I can imagine researching for fantasy would be lots of fun and full of endless possibilities!

    Alex - Makes me wonder what movies I could watch for 'research'..

  5. Oh yes, I'm a sucker for research, and anything hysterically historial. :)

    The oddest thing I probably bought in connection with my novel was a 1953 coronation travel map! I wanted to see what tube lines were around then and the travel restrictions. But when I was later redrafting, I cut a lot of that chapter so half of it wasn't needed!

  6. Jayne - Quite odd, but sounds fascinating too! It'a interesting what we need to know sometimes for historical accuracy.

  7. Yes. I bought a book about a devastating volcanic eruption in the Caribbean thinking I could set a novel there. I didn't finish reading the book before I cooled on the idea, but I did enjoy sticking little yellow post it notes on pages I thought I might go back to.

  8. Helen - sounds like a great setting. Perhaps you wouldn't have cooled on it if you'd taken a field trip to the Caribbean for research!