My Book Research Process
Today’s blog post is an overview of what the research process usually looks like when I’m writing a novel. While all of my writing has elements of personal experience in it, one of the things I love most about writing romance and bringing a new couple to life with each book is that it means part of my job is to learn about topics I may never have had the chance to look into otherwise.
If all of my books were about twenty-something writers trying to make it in the self-publishing world, they’d get a little repetitive. Research is what allows me to write about rock stars, street artists, professional dancers, and the heirs of French winery estates in a way that’s vivid, convincing, and able to pull the reader into the character’s world and make it feel real to them.
It can be a lengthy process that involves a lot of resources, and although I get the initial stage complete before I start writing, research continues throughout drafting and editing the book. Here’s a broad look at how the timeline usually goes:
It starts with Pinterest. Pinterest is a huge part of my inspiration process (I wrote a whole blog post about how I use it that way) but it also serves as a jumping off point for research. I’ll have a very general idea of what the story is about and who the characters are when I first create the pin board, and as I go along, I’ll find things related to the characters or their world that I’ll realize I need to know more about.
Next, I lay the research foundation. This is when I acquire all the knowledge needed to feel confident about starting the book. The resources I use for this can really vary between stories. Here are a few examples:
I drew from the things I learned during many street art walking tours when writing about Molly’s interest in and eventual creation of street art in Your Sound
I watched lots of band interviews and behind the scenes videos when writing about life on the road with an up and coming rock band in Your Chorus
I watched YouTube tutorials for music producers when researching my current work in progress, which is about two DJs/producers in Montreal
If I’m writing about an action or setting that I haven’t done or visited myself, I’ll also often try to find a way to physically immerse myself in it as much as I can. For example, I don’t play guitar, but when writing about Ace in Your Echo, it was helpful to just hold a guitar and find ways to describe its texture, shape, and weight the way someone who cherished it would
It’s also important to note that if I’m writing about a major or even minor character who’s part of a minority that I’m not, researching and learning from the voices of people within that minority is vital, as is getting feedback on the eventual manuscript from sources who can point out errors or misrepresentations. This isn’t a flawless process; it’s very hard for any writer to accurately portray a group whose experiences they haven’t shared, so while the significant characters in my books will not always be people with privileges identical to mine, I know that it’s much more important for me to amplify the voices of marginalized writers than to attempt to tell their stories myself.
After that initial phase, I often find myself doing scene-specific research when writing my first or second draft. This is what happens when I’m in the middle of a chapter and realize I can’t fully picture where the character is or what they’re doing. For me, this often relates to location. It’s pretty common for me to open up street view on Google Maps and ‘walk along’ with my characters.
Most of my books are set in Montreal, which I’ve spent a lot of time in, so my map perusing is often just a refresher for me, but it’s especially helpful for scenes set somewhere I haven’t been. For example, when writing about Christina and Aaron’s trip to Azenhas do Mar in Thigh Highs, I did a whole Google Maps recreation of their drive into the town, right up to where I imagined Christina’s family’s home to be.
The final research phase happens during editing, when I look into instances where additional details or clarification might be needed. That involves fact-checking sources or finding new ones to help me make the story as vivid and accurate as possible.
And then I’m done! As nerdy as it is to say it, research is one of my favourite parts of writing a book. I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge I never would have otherwise taken an interest in, and I’ve even found new things to try in my own life. It’s always such a rewarding experience to take the characters and plot from an idea in the back of my head to a full blown novel filled with detailed imagery and complex emotions, and research is such an important part of that for me.