Research – Some love it, some hate it

I briefly spoke about research on my blog recently, so I thought I would speak again in more detail here.

Before I started my writing journey, I had absolutely no idea how much research went into writing a book. It’s a made up story, surely it’s just a case of writing it? This was how I used to think. When you are a reader, you tend to just read it. There is no thinking, ‘I wonder how she knows that’ or ‘is that realistically the amount of time it takes to sell a house.’ I never used to read and think these things. I was so wrapped up and lost in the story, I would simply read. I didn’t appreciate how much research had gone into writing just that one scene, or chapter or even the whole book.

The story has to be viable and believable and most importantly, realistic. This might not necessarily be the case if you are writing paranormal or the like, but for me, I write contemporary romance and so far all my stories are written about real, everyday life. So it needs to be realistic.

A lot of research went into my first novel. Even when I was in my most recent draft stage, I was still spotting things and having to go off and check. Research for me has come in many forms. For example, the first book saw me speaking to a policewoman, both an estate agent and a lettings agent, a doctor, two people who had suffered grief in two very different ways and a widow. I not only had to speak to people about technical things to make sure what I was saying was right, but also, to a number of people purely to make sure I was getting the emotion and ‘feeling’ right. There is nothing that worries me more, when writing a book, than if a reader reads it and thinks, ‘well she obviously didn’t do her homework’ or ‘that’s just not how it feels.’ Each and every person and organisation I have spoken to have been an immense help in making sure I get it right.

I must say, I am enjoying the research for my second novel very much. And it has nothing at all to do with the fact that it means dreaming up a hunky paramedic and eating cakes. Nothing at all!

Bakery drawing

I am only in the first draft of the novel but so far I have been working very closely with a lovely paramedic who has been helping me get all the technicalities right and making sure I am not way off the mark. From what to do when a call comes in, to shift patterns and annual leave. I have spoken with a lovely lady who runs her own baking business and makes wonderful cakes in all shapes, sizes and flavours and I am currently deciding which cakes will be in my case that I am ordering – you have to try these things if you’re to write about them, am I right? I found it impossible to find the bakery setting for my story in picture form. I work very well from visual inspiration and so I like to see what I am writing. I regularly look on Rightmove to find the rooms where some scenes take place. But finding a bakery, exactly how it was in my head, didn’t prove successful. So, I took to pen and paper and drew my own. It’s not very technical but it helps me to envisage where the heroine is standing and moving around when I am writing about her.

Without giving too much away, I have been on a number of sites to get information about a sensitive subject, of which is my heroines past and has shaped the person she is today and I am also about to contact a lovely lady who has offered to help with another very sensitive subject, this time, linked with my hero.

It is hard, once you grasp onto something, to know where to draw the line. In both books so far, I deal with very hard, emotional situations and topics and so I have to speak with people about their own experiences and it can be very hard. I would like to just say that all the people that have helped in this way have always offered to talk to me; I will never force anyone to talk about or expose any part of their experiences that they don’t want to. But it is important for me to really write it true to the character, and this means me hearing it from first hand experience. This is the hard part of research for me. I find it emotionally draining sometimes and it is very hard to hear. These people have all been so brave and I thank each and every one of them who have helped so far, and those who will in the future.

I do love doing the research that involves ogling hot men, eating cake and taking pictures of scenery, buildings and objects. I also very much enjoy learning about new professions. I had no idea how much goes on behind the scenes with paramedics. It has consumed my mind and I cannot pass a hospital, ambulance or green all-in-one without thinking, ‘do I need this?’ ‘can I use this?‘what are they doing?’ ‘what are they saying?’ Even my daughter now, as we drive, point out the ambulances to me! And even a recent situation in a pub where there was a need to call an ambulance to the group of women I was with, once everything was OK and the lady who was poorly had recovered and was laughing and joking, I couldn’t hold back from throwing in a few questions to the paramedic and asking for his email address. *I stress that the lady was indeed OK, and she was joking about me grilling him with questions. I was not doing this whilst she was feeling poorly*

As you can see, I take research very seriously and try to pluck it from any situation. You have to. I now carry a notebook and a pen everywhere I go, just incase. You never know when you will bump into someone who can answer a few questions for you or give you a number/email of someone who can.

This is my desk at the moment with all my research and planning for book two. I have my visuals, my paramedic shift rota, my month planner, beginnings of my timeline, spider graph for hero and heroine and the starting’s of a family tree for both hero and heroine. None of which will physically be in the book, but it is all needed to frame the basis of the story. And this is only the beginning….

Love Lucie x

Do you like to do research? Does it consume your brain like it does mine?

11 thoughts on “Research – Some love it, some hate it

  1. Great post! I do tend to get sucked into the more absorbing areas of research – currently Welsh history – but always find when I’m doing final revisions there are tiny facts I have to check and adjust. Usually things I bunged in the first draft without thinking, then suddenly realise at the end I have no idea if they’re true! For example, when do you plant snowdrop bulbs? How do you make donuts? And how long does it take to dye roses….?

    • Hi Sophie.

      I completely understand what you mean. I do tend to focus on the bigger picture and then once I get to a final draft I think, ‘Oh, did I just make that up?’
      Your questions sound exactly like the kind of ‘little things’ that I leave until last minute. They may be just one line in the whole book, but if it is wrong, you are bound to get someone who will notice it! Best to try and check every inch of it. That can be easier said than done, though, if you have read a story a zillion times over. That is when draft readers come in handy…

      Thanks so much for dropping by.

      Lucie x

  2. Interesting post. It looks like you’re going to a lot of effort to make your characters as believable as possible, which I admire. I really think that those small, realistic details will go a long way in weaving a more ‘true to life’ story. I research all the time, but is mostly for non-fiction history of art papers, however when I’m researching I’m often inspired to create works of fiction from the facts. Good luck with all your future writing!

    • Hi Robby,

      Thank you. I do like to get ‘inside’ my characters as much as I can. If I believe them, hopefully my readers will too.
      History of Art, that sounds interesting. I have recently found a love for art which I never knew existed. It has only been the past year or so that I have found an interest in paintings, drawings and more recently, photography.
      You should definitely try your hand at fiction. If the inspiration is there you should use it. You may surprise yourself with what you end up with – I always do!

      Thank you for your good luck wishes and for stopping by.

      Lucie x

  3. For me it’s a double edged sword, I can resent that it slows down my writing or makes me doubt stuff I’ve said! But then i do get a buzz from knowing that I can state things with more confidence where I want an aspect of my story to have credence. Normally with cultural stuff and processes that people are savvy about!

    But part of the fun of fiction is suspension of belief, so it’s important to feel confident in carving out a world that the reader knows is fictitious but is written well enough to enable them to buy into it : )

    • I completely agree, Yasmin. There is a whole world of books out there that create a new, fictitious land where everything in it comes from the mind of the author. It’s amazing. I think checking facts and my knowledge takes up time research-wise, but creating a whole new land must takes years and years.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Lucie x

  4. I do enjoy it! Sometimes it seems like I spend a lot more time on research than writing. Since my genre is historical, I have been getting a lot of old books-novels of the period, letters, guidebooks, books about different subjects printed during the era-looking at paintings & old prints, etc. etc. etc.

    • Hi Lauren,

      Yes, it can feel a bit like that here, too. I hear stories of people doing X amount of research for something and only ever using half of it. But if doing that amount cements something in your head enough for you to be able to portray it well, I say go for it!

      Good luck with your historical. Thanks for dropping by.

      Lucie x

  5. I love research…..but, if I go to a web site, before I know it I’ve clicked on something that sounds really interesting but has no relevance to what I’m supposed to be looking at lol. Recently I was researching Social Workers (as my character is a Social Worker) and before I knew it I was on a mental health forum lol. Fascinating stuff, but not really relevant to what I needed lol 😉


    • The amount of times I have done that, Vicki! 🙂

      It’s nice, though, because sometimes that deviation can take you to something that will inspire a plot change, or a character change or even a new idea for another book.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Lucie x

  6. Apart from the Internet, of course, I have piles of books. Some I buy for 1p from Amazon and others I get from PostScript. They have a big selection of historical non-fiction which is great for research. The trouble is then that I have to read them! I do make notes and stick in page marker post-its, so some end up looking very pretty!

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