You can improve your writing a number of ways. You can be more descriptive in some areas, more emotive in others, you can rewrite until a scene is perfect or you can develop a new writing style. Yet, these methods will only improve your writing on a surface level. To really write something great about a topic, you need to understand the topic.
Here are some top methods to research for your writing!
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1. Research for Science-Fiction
Science-fiction involves a host of jargon that often flies over the head of the reader. As such, there is a stigma regarding science-fiction, that only those with experience with the subject can really enjoy it. However, through proper research, one can explain technology and scientific theories with ease, that anyone can follow and enjoy.
Sci-Fi has always been a struggle in writing. Whether it is the process of creating new technology or describing current technology, writers always seem to have trouble conveying how it works and what it does. As a result, technology leaves the readers confused and desperate for more explanation.
In addition to that, science-fiction in itself also presents a challenge of being confusing if too much description is given. It certainly is a challenge for writers, but more than that, it is a balancing act. That is where research comes into play.
Proper research into technology and scientific theories is essential if you want to appear knowledgeable on the subject. That is why I often recommend doing some deeper research on the subject and then moving on to compare it to something common. Phrases, ‘like’ or ‘similar to’ often come into play when you are doing this. The result; the reader not only understands what your technology does and how it works but also can see that you know what you’re talking about.
The last thing you want to do is exclude your reader and this can be done respectfully with simplified descriptions or showing them rather than telling.
2. Research for Historical Accuracy
Stepping away from the future, we need now discuss the past.
Historically accurate facts are used in fiction set in older eras that are centred on true history and not on alternative history. When working with alternative history you are given room to make up what you wish as you go along. Any differences can then be chalked up to it being a part of the alternative world that you have created.
Moving from this, if you wish to set your story in a certain period of time and wish to remain historically accurate, you will need to do some deeper research, much like researching technology for science-fiction. For example, where Tom Clancy has been accurate in writing about technology, J. G. Ballard was historically accurate in the writing of his story, Empire of the Sun.
It is for these reasons that you can use historical facts to not only immerse your reader but enlighten them on some concepts of history they weren’t previously knowledgeable on or perhaps even heard of. A lot of this writing will add to your reputation if you intend to write several books that are based on historically accurate settings. On top of that, your book stands among the few that are well-researched and believable.
Of course, all this is a good thing.
3. Research for Realistic Constructions
By the same token, you can use this research to help you better understand matters of culture and religion. More than that, they can help you develop your own worlds, your own cultures, your own religions and craft them realistically. Which, in turn, will make your worlds feel more immersive, your stories carry more weight.
Culture certainly plays a part if you intend on including certain races and types of people. Religion then plays a part in this work as well. Certain cultures have their ‘dos and don’ts’, so if you make a mistake and write something that doesn’t fit that culture, it will leave someone who is well-versed in such culture questioning your knowledge.
Such mistakes are not only embarrassing, but they jeopardise the inevitability of your novel. Nothing immerses a reader more than the attention given to such details and in addition, it builds the world for your reader. Different cultures and religions are fascinating, so use your knowledge to not only set the scene but teach the reader something new and wonderful.
In today's age, attention to culture and religion is intense and often harsh if assumptions or mistakes are made. Even in an alternative reality, certain tropes can be offensive to certain people. Additional research into what works today, if you plan on writing something controversial, can be a real boon.
Of course, this only matters if you are afraid of stepping on toes. If not, then simply write what you want to write.
4. Research for Language and Its Use
Not everyone in the world speaks the same language. Although English has grown to become the world's largest language, writers will continue to bring in characters that speak another language. However, they often make the decision to write the character without dialogue.
There is nothing wrong about not including dialogue when the character doesn’t speak your native tone. In many cases, this is for the best. However, by including a second language you not only impress your reader with your knowledge, but you might impress a reader who does speak that language.
I myself have experienced it in writing and no doubt many others where an author does the additional research and includes dialogue that you can still understand. Small details like that are not necessary, but adding them only improves the book in the sense of building the world.
Of course, I don’t recommend going to Google translate for these decisions. Dialogue in a language you don’t understand is a difficult task and if done incorrectly, it will be a let down for a reader who knows the language. If you wish to take the extra step, ensure that what you write is correct before publishing.
In addition, when in doubt, create your own language. There are many forms of elvish out there, why not make your own!
5. Research Your Books!
You have seen it before.
Authors stating things later in a series only to contradict what they said earlier in the series. If you intend to write a series of novels you need to note everything that you have written that will be brought up later. Forgetting certain details that the reader remembers can result in a fault later in your novels.
If the mistake is large enough, it could cripple the plot. If it is a small mistake, nobody will really care as it doesn’t directly affect the plot. Now, not every writer should be writing a guide book containing every fact they created in the series so far. Instead, write vague enough details to make adjustments later. Doing so should help you avoid any such mistakes.
That is the final point on this list. Keeping track of your own story is essential if you plan on connecting your novels or making a series. Build a world for your reader, don’t destroy the past to fit your current agenda. Otherwise, it all crumbles. Maintaining that magic will surely keep the series thriving.
Personally, the research part of my process takes longer than the writing itself. The research stems not only from articles and textbooks but from one’s own imagination. We have all spent hours, days, even weeks pondering and dreaming up stories, scenes and dialogues. In a sense, we have all been researching a subject we knew very little of; our future story.
In the past, I simply avoid subjects and time periods I didn’t know much about. It is far easier to write a story set in a familiar time and on a vague subject, such as magic. However, the allure of science-fiction and high fantasy was too great and eventually, I started writing in those genres as well. Research became very necessary and luckily, it was very interesting.
If there is any personal advice I would give on this subject, it is to enjoy the researching experience. Imagine scenes relating to the subject, visualise and witness what your imagination can construct.
On that note,
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!
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Thank you for reading!
Matthew Dewey, Writer
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