I think that the word “research” can have somewhat of a negative connotation when it comes to preparing for a novel. The average writer may envision themselves stuck inside of a library, buried by academic books about whatever they’re going to write about. Another fear could be spending hours online, reading articles from credible databases. Although you will need to educate yourself to an extent, there is more to researching than just brushing up on facts. In order to have a complex and layered story, a writer needs to take a lot of time to do immersive research for their novel. I believe that a writer should start doing their research immediately after they decide who and what they plan to write about.
Depending on what genre you are writing in, you will have certain expectations and genre norms that your readers will expect you to meet. For example, if you are writing a romance, there has to be some sort of conflict between the couple. Nobody wants to read a story about a couple who never bicker, never have problems, and go throughout their days peacefully. That is not how romance novels are written because that would be boring. You must know your genre before you begin to write and that’s where a different type of research comes in. You should read books that are in your chosen genre in order to learn what type of expectations a reader will have. If you want to write a murder mystery, you may want to watch crime movies or television shows in order to visualize how criminal investigations are depicted. Immersing yourself within your chosen genre will help you prepare and become more educated on what you plan to write. Reading or watching different genre pieces can be quite time consuming, so it is best to start now. You may gain inspiration through your research and you will decrease the amount of work you will have in November.
The amount of additional research you may need will be based upon what genre you end up choosing. If you decide to write a historical novel based in the World War II era, you will need to immerse yourself into the history of World War II. You can read firsthand accounts of World War II veterans, read history books, or visit museums with World War II exhibits to really learn about the culture and history in that time period. The writer who writes this novel will obviously need to do more research than a writer who writes a contemporary novel about a teenager in high school. Regardless of the complexity of the story, a writer should always do some research.
I think one of the worst things a writer can do is skip the research. A reader can really tell if a novel is well researched or if it isn’t. As a writer, you have created the world so you should know everything about it. If there is even a single setting or factual inaccuracy, you will lose credibility with your reader. If you have chosen to write about a town that you don’t live in, make sure you know that town like a native. A writer should never assume something to be true and write a possible inaccuracy. If your novel is based in reality, your story must be built on facts. The only way to obtain those facts is through research.
It will be incredibly difficult to get into the groove of writing if you are stressing out about the details during November. Since NaNoWriMo does demand so much time, you do not want to have to worry about spending more time researching your novel than actually writing it. Doing your research now will decrease your stress levels and will give you more time to write once NaNoWriMo begins.
If you are participating in NaNoWriMo or have some different suggestions on doing research, please share them in the comments! If you are interested in signing up for NaNoWriMo, click here.