In any genre, there will be a certain amount of research and it can be overwhelming starting, but if you know where to start, it’s not too bad! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Find pictures during your time period. Pictures speak to me and as writers, we paint pictures with our words, so add life and color to those old black and white photos. Pinterest is a great place to keep your visual ideas organized!
(Men and women ice skating in Central Park, 1893.)
Get a history book that covers your time period. While I love using the Internet for research, I found that sometimes, nothing beats a good old-fashioned history book…but a history book with pictures. Images of America makes amazing history books that are easy to read and are full of fascinating pictures.
Look up who was a popular writer during your time period. I try to research books that my characters would have read and then I find them on Amazon and insert little tidbits into my writings. It helps give life and historical accuracy to the story.
When to Research
For me, I have found that research usually falls into three categories.
- Pre -Writing.
Before I begin any novel, I do a certain level of research to make sure that the period is something I would be interested enough in to devote my life for the next six months to writing about it. This would include: political events, lifestyles of social classes (depending on if your main character is poor, middle-class or upper-class) and location.
- During Writing
If I run into a phrase that I want to use while I’m writing, but I’m not sure on if it was used or is even appropriate during the time, I bold the word or phrase and keep writing. Any questions that I have whether it has to do with a name, a place, a date or a word I put it in bold. When I am at a good stopping point in the flow of my writing, I go back and research the bolded words. This just helps me from getting distracted in the black hole known as the Internet and it helps the inspiration to keep flowing. If I am stuck in the plot, I research until I find something interesting enough to insert into my novels.
(I would say 85% of my research happens while I am writing my novels and not before or after.)
- “Post” – Writing
I say “post” because a book is never done with edits. There is always something you can add. Okay, so, post-writing research is when you have already edited it and found that you might have put in the wrong buggy or train car even though you were super careful in your research, but you slipped up on this one. (i.e. certain phaetons weren’t available one year earlier, so if my book is in 1894 and the buggy wasn’t created until 1895…thank goodness I caught it.)
What is your research process? Where do you go first for information?
Happy researching! Happy Writing!