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!
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?