In a lot of the writing groups and conferences I've been to the topic of research has come up from time to time. There are many different opinions on the subject, and many will tell you research is only necessary when you are writing about something you know very little to nothing about. But is this really the case and if it is, does your writing suffer from not doing research all the time?
After writing many short stories and picture books for young readers, my opinion on doing research might be very different from yours. I have always felt research is critical no matter how much I know or don't know about a certain subject. There is always something I learn each time, even on topics I know a lot about as things are always changing, and changing fast sometimes these days. However, I thought I was just one of the weird writers out there feeling this way until I took a research workshop with James Patterson, who had this to say about research.
"Research really helps your confidence." —James Patterson
He also talked about how it can enhance your writing, even on subjects you may know a lot about. I was surprised to find out Mr. Patterson never writes any of his books without doing research, long before sitting down to write, on everything from locations to types of characters (i.e. Police Officer, School Teacher, etc.)
I tend to do a lot of job shadows, character interviews and even have gone to high schools, shadowing the students and getting ideas of how my teen characters will behave. I find my characters are more authentic because I take the extra time to do this every time I set out to write a new story. Just doing research once with a police officer for one book doesn't mean you shouldn't interview an officer, sergeant or captain of a police department the next time. You should because interviewing a different person or someone who holds a different title will give you more insight to what you are writing about the second time around. Unless, you're writing book two of your series. In this case, you would want to interview the same perons again or get their feed back on what you are writing.
Research should also be done for locations as well. I"m working on a book currently based in my old hometown of AppleValley. I lived there for a number of years, but there are things I may not remember or may have changed since living there I might want to know about now for my book. Also, walking the streets and visiting old hang outs brings back memories and ideas I can use in my book, too.
The point is research is important no matter what you are writing about and should always be done before you start working on drafts of your manuscript if you want top notch writing. After leaving Jame Patterson's workshop I felt good about the path I was on as a writer and even better about now hving more imput and focus on how to keep moving in a postive way with my writing. Even though I was doing much of what he talked about, I also learned new ways or reevlauated how I was doing things. I feel my writing will benefit from his adavace and I find myself looking forward to sitting down and working on my book ideas with a better attitude and as he said with more confendance.
Still not sure you need to to research before you set out to write..then read this article http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/columns-and-blogs/soapbox/article/55152-what-i-learned-from-james-patterson.html