Knowledge and Research in Creative Writing

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Being an author sounds easy, right? You immerse yourself in an imaginary world of your own design, then weave it onto the page for others to enjoy. And that is the crux of it, but there are many other facets involved, that most wannabe authors still don’t even realise, like social media, blogging, promotion and research.

Knowledge and research is key to most good books and stories. If you’re going to set your work in a certain time period, you need to be on the historical ball when it comes to the small details that, if not done correctly, can become massive plot holes and almost laughable strikes against your work.

The amount of research really is dependent on what you are writing. Identifying the knowledge you need to weave that story with tight efficiency is a skill all in its self – you need to really explore your manuscript and themes to know what you need know, as the writer, to make it all work. The more effort you put into to this side, the more believe-able your stories become – even if they’re horror, fantasy or sci-fi.

So where do you do research or find knowledge? I’ve learnt a couple of tricks along the way, and below you’ll find a list of options for you to explore. It’s not an all-encompassing exhaustive list, by any means, but its s start to get you on the road – getting to the end of that road, well that’s down to you.

Wikipedia:

Wikipedia is great for short bursts of information with extended reading lists. Wonderful for an overview of a time period and great for looking up genres and other authors/books.

Google Alerts:

These little beauties can be set up through this site to send you any information, on a weekly/daily basis about your subject matter. Great for industries which are constantly changing, like scientific discoveries or even the publishing industry itself. Just put in your email address and what you’re looking for and Google Alerts does the hard work for you.

Going old school at the Library:

Books are still cool! Don’t forget the wealth of information at your finger tips that exists in your local and national libraries. Use their reference books and even take some home with you (check them out first!) Also The Gutenberg Project has a large selection of free downloads online of all sorts of public domain books.

Google Maps:

I’ve mentioned Google Maps on here before, they truly are a wonderfully addition to any scene setting. If your story is set anywhere else than your own home town, then you either need to go there (expensive and time consuming) or have a go at Google Maps and virtually walk the streets. You can also search online for tourist sites and even images to give you a foundation to write from.

Twitter:

A necessity for authors in its own right – but can be used to make contact with people who are perhaps in the jobs your characters are. Making contact and throwing them a few meaning-full questions can really flesh out your characters and you’d be surprised how many people are flattered to be asked such questions from authors.

E-learning:

A great way to learn is through an online course and you can do it for free on ALISON you can take courses on everything from law (if you’re writing a legal themed story) all the way to Psychology. You can even brush up on your grammar skills on this site. Do watch out though as the free option includes adverts, and if you want the certificate at the end you need to pay for it – but as free information goes, its a goldmine.

Lectures:

I found a site recently, Great Courses which gives you access to brilliant lectures from leading universities and colleges from all over the world. You can buy audio, visual or physical course materials. The information on offer here is huge and not overly expensive either. You can listen to lectures from history courses, myths, writing and literature. A real boon for anyone seeking in depth info on a subject, but also great to gain ideas and inspiration.

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