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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Research Reflected In Your Novel

I hope all my American followers had a safe and fantastic Independence Day this weekend. The holiday had me reflecting upon our freedoms, the freedom of speech in particular. Which, oddly enough, led me to think of researching a novel and deciding what to put in and what not to. I know what you're thinking, why would a fantasy writer be researching a novel? The novel I'm researching for is going to be a sort of young adult historical fantasy.

This novel involves a Mariana trench depth of researching. I'm even going so far as to learn another language to help immerse myself into the culture and get the voice for the story just right. When you're writing a story that requires so much research it can end up making your novel too fat. But, having invested so much time and hard work in it you might find it hard to cut unnecessary parts. You may have a tendency to put all that great research in your novel when it isn't needed.

Here is an easy tip for what to leave out: If it doesn't do something for the novel, cut it. To use an old saying, if you introduce a gun in scene one, you have to use it by the end of the novel. The same goes for research that you've integrated into your novel, it must mean something to the novel itself, not just to you. That doesn't mean that you can't describe someone or set the scene, just be careful not to over do it.

Several years back I read a book by an author that broke this rule with devastating affect. It was one of the heaviest books, both literally and figuratively speaking, that I've attempted to read. The author went on for pages about plants and herbs that never meant anything to the story. It was obvious they had researched the plant life and couldn't help but put it in the book, in excruciating detail. I never finished that book despite the fact that I had loved the author's previous three novels. I haven't bought anything by them since.

If you make this mistake as an aspiring author you may never actually debut and if you make it as a seasoned author with several published books, you may drive your fans away. Everything must have meaning, even your descriptions and settings. Follow this rule and you increase your chances of getting published!

11 comments:

  1. This makes for interesting reading and definitely something I've thought about. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Heather x

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  2. Great post! I'm a firm believer in cutting anything that isn't necessary to the plot...that goes for too much research as well.

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  3. I'm not sure too much research is a problem for my novels yet, but it definitely could be in the future...thanks for the heads-up!

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  4. Uh-oh, I guess that means my twenty-seven page soliloquy on daffodils has to go... DARN!! :) BTW, I totally agree.

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  5. You're welcome Linsey and Candyland, I'm glad you found it interesting and helpful.

    I'm the same way TS. There are some things I've researched that I really wanted to put in, but it didn't do anything for the story so I left it out.

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  6. You're welcome Kari! I really started thinking about it when I realized how much research this next novel was going to take. And I just know I'm going to learn fantastic stuff that I'll want to put in and really shouldn't.

    LOL! Lisa, you crack me up, as always. Hey, everybody loves daffodils right? Just not that much! :-)

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  7. All that research is going to make your novel wonderful. Especially since you know how to use it! My second novel, which I only got half-way through, is historical, and I'm yearning to get back to it, which I will as soon as I finish the one that came after. Love researching!

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  8. Excellent points. I had to learn this along the way, and still need reminding of it! That thing you mentioned about whether using a gun in a scene is called a "Chekhov's Gun". I did a post on it!

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  9. Thanks Linda, how sweet! How come I've never heard of your second novel? It sounds interesting. We'll have to workshop our historical novels together!

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  10. I remember that post Lydia, it was excellent! I learned what to put in and what not to the hard way as well. Hopefully by both of us blogging about our experiences we'll help someone else learn the 'easy' way!

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