I recently received my first full request - for a novel that isn't done! And a historical at that! Cheryl's post is quite timely and will help me as I get further into this! Plus her new book is excellent - check it out! ~Carol
By Cheryl Wyatt
It’s medical fact that creative writing and technical researching use two different sides of the brain. I try and urge others to try not to attempt both at once because it ends up being counterproductive and will actually cost time in the long run. After I’ve done my bulk of research and begin my actual novel writing spree, if I run into a snag that needs research, I [bracket] the spot and write on. I resist the compulsion to stop throwing down words to research once I start my rough draft. After my draft is complete, I run word processor “find” search of the document for “[“ and “]” then systematically research and input any needed additions or corrections. Things go smoother that way.
How about you? Do you enjoy researching for a novel? Why or why not? If you’re a reader, do you ever sense an author has done too much or too little research? Does that affect the flow of reading? I’m curious because a lot of times, I think authors who do extensive research sometimes end up inserting too much of what they’ve learned into the story. When authors do this, they run the risk of making their novels read like a text book. Thankfully I had contest judges and critique partners point out my tendency to do that in early drafts and, painful as it was, I nixed a TON of technical military gunk from my books. Then, not surprisingly, when the book was contracted, my editors guided me to remove even more technical details because they detracted from the romance.
Sometimes, especially with historical or nostalgic era work, I think authors run more the risk of under-researching. I hear a lot of readers of historical fiction get pulled out of stories not historically accurate.
My point to the two scenarios above is to encourage authors to aim for the right balance of not only research, but how much of that research ends up being threaded within the plot and setting of the novel. It’s always good to have a fresh set of eyes go over a manuscript to check for this.
So, how’s the best way to research for a novel? My favorite way is to find people in the career field of my heroes and heroines and pick their brains. Even if you’re pre-published, experts are usually delighted to assist, especially if you assure them you will honor their profession with your work. Hint: always honor the professions you feature in your books. I have ended up with a ton of faithful and unexpected research helpers this way and in fact was invited to visit a special operations training base for a Pararescue indoctrination course because real PJs (Pararescue Jumpers) felt so honored by my Wings of Refuge Series (Love Inspired) which featured a team of US Air Force Pararescue Jumpers.
Two of my research helpers were featured on Discovery Channel’s Surviving the Cut-Pararescue edition as instructors. God will open amazing doors if you honor people and professions with your words. I have a ton of awesome stories about where my books have ended up (Air Force One and in two Presidents’ hands) because of researchers God has placed in my path at just the right time, as I asked Him to provide people for me. God cares about these things and will provide the help you need too so don’t be afraid to ask, especially if you plan to honor Him with your work.
Because of my honoring service members, my military research contacts have connected me to several military chaplains who’ve given me an open invitation and clearance to speak at bases to boost morale where service member suicide rates are extremely high. So you never know what kind of balm your words will be to a human heart as you write as worship and research with diligence and determination to aim for excellence in writing fiction with virtue. My research ventures have landed me in some hilarious predicaments too, but that’s a (funny!) blog post for another day, but suffice it to say that one of my editors once told me that she’s 100% certain that my computer is flagged by the FBI because of some of the internet searches I have to conduct for novel research. LOL!
I always try to have at least three sources for every research venue. By venue, I mean persons, places or things. People in the career field, books, manuals, travel brochures, websites and the gazillion other publications that can be found online. I find a lot of great articles on newspaperarchives.com. There’s a yearly fee, but it’s worth it in my opinion, especially if you’re searching for historical accuracy. I encourage people to triple check their sources and their research. Get more than one expert’s input on items crucial to your plot.
What are some of your favorite research sites or publications? What kinds of interesting places or people have come into your life because of novel research?
-- Author Bio:
Born Valentine’s Day on a Navy base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin's Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers. www.CherylWyatt.com Cheryl loves interacting with her readers and can be found almost daily on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CherylWyattAuthor