Nanowrimo Guide
5 min read

How much research should you do upfront?

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Good research is the groundwork for a great story. “But how much should I do?!”, we hear you wail! The answer lies somewhere between not too much and not too little. Annoying, we know. So we’ve put together four steps to help you do your research – and know what’s enough.

1. Decide what information you need

We tend to think of research as gathering factual detail, but it can be much more than that! Focus on getting the information that’s right for your book, whatever form that takes. Here are some suggestions:

  • Read other novels. Need ideas for great worldbuilding or realistic dialogue? Your bookshelf might have just the inspiration you’re looking for!
  • Talk to fellow writers about how they approached similar problems. Trust us, writers love to nerd-out about the nuts and bolts of their craft.
  • Take a walk where you plan to set your story. Let Google Street View help you if you don’t live close by!

2. Have somewhere to organise it

Once you’ve gathered your information, you’ll need somewhere to put it all. First Draft Pro’s notes folder helps you manage your research right alongside your manuscript for ease of reference.

Give yourself a head start by sifting through your research before you start writing. Make a note of what’s vital and what isn’t, and connect the dots between key pieces of information. Use wiki-style linking to help you! Meaningful research is more important than lots of research. You’ll thank yourself later.

3. Be thorough, but don’t get waylaid

Some of us like to use research as a form of procrastination – but really, we know deep down what’s useful and what’s dilly-dallying. The perfect amount of research doesn’t exist. Do enough to do your story justice, without stopping yourself from getting going.

If you find a gap in your research once you’ve started, add a comment in your manuscript and come back to it later.

4. Strike the right balance

Be factual where necessary, but don’t be tempted to overdo it with technical detail. If your readers wanted a textbook, they wouldn’t be reading your novel!

Remember that much of your research will serve as background reading for your benefit only. Part of becoming a good writer is understanding what to include to support your plot, without overwhelming or boring your reader.