Writing what you do not know is tough. The worst part is realizing how much you don’t know. This realization comes as you are about to write that amazing scene that has been floating around in your imagination for weeks, only to realize, you have no clue what a King’s master bedroom looks like. It’s a vicious cycle that starts its rotation at the least expected moment, but one that is easily broken.
Ideas are a wonderful thing, but until extensive research is done, that idea doesn’t need to meet the paper. If you don’t know how a blacksmith forged a sword in medieval times, don’t guess. Your reader will know it’s a guess and that one mistake could make the reader close your book indefinitely.
Research is one of the most important things that you can do for your novel and, the best part is, it’s easy. Have a computer or smartphone? Good. Have the internet? Good. All that is required for this process are things we use every day. Remember that time at Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house when the whole family wanted to know why scrubs were called scrubs? Then your cousin, that’s head had been buried in the phone all day, types a few words on their phone, looks up and tells the room that they are called scrubs because they are worn in a scrubbed environment. You need to be that cousin who is seeking the answer to the questions your novel asks.
Ensure your sources are plentiful and reliable. Do not accept what only one site, book or person says about a topic. Double check, triple check, even quadruple check information obtained through any medium before it makes it into your story. Do not be afraid to ask people who are knowledgeable about topics you need answers to. Most will be happy to answer your questions. If you are writing a novel about a corrupt police chief and the toll his corruption has on an entire city’s department, contact your local police department and inquire about a short interview with an officer to discuss their lingo and processes. They may tell you no, but, even if they do, everybody has an uncle that’s a cop.
Your friends and family are great sources of information on topics that they specialize in. Your friend’s a banker? They probably know a lot about money laundering laws for your book about a drug cartel. Custodian? They can tell you what chemicals they use daily that could clean any mess. Insurance agent? They can tell you the rules around death benefits on that life policy your protagonist killed his wife for. Information is so abundant and accessible, but you have to look for it.
There is no reason for your novel to have any misinformation on how something is done or works. There are too many sources out there that can answer all your questions and tell you all the processes that you need to know. Don’t settle for a guess when the answer lies at your fingertips. Take the extra time and research anything and everything that you are not one hundred percent sure about. Your time spent doing research is equally as important as the time you spend putting words on paper. You can’t abbreviate words like you can’t skip research.
Check out this post about defining your characters!