25 March 2013


As we all know, writing a book involves more than the writing process.  It also involves research.  I can only speak for myself here but my research starts before I write a word and goes on intermittently throughout my writing process.

Visiting the Setting(s)

Initially, I like to go to see the settings I plan to use.  I take photographs, get a feel for the place in general, the people who inhabit the area, the sounds, smells etc.  If there are shops I go shopping, if there are coffee shops, I stop to have a brew while I people watch.

Using the web

We’re lucky today to have the web where we can generally find what we want in seconds.  But beware that you don’t get side-tracked, and/or spend so much time surfing around that you don’t get any writing done.  I’m guilty.

Visiting the library

I have to admit that these days, I don’t use the library for research as much as I did in the past, but I still frequent the place from time to time.  There again, it’s so easy for me to meander off into the fiction shelves and get lost for hours!

The Bird Gallery
Visiting and communicating with people who have similar occupations etc., to your characters.

This is a particularly interesting and delightful way to do research.  I remember while I was researching The Celtic Dagger, I decided to visit the Australian Museum because it was one of the main settings.  As it turned out, I spent the whole day there, not only checking out The Bird Gallery which is what I’d gone to see, but also an Egyptian mummy took my interest as well as some bony dinosaurs.  But I think the best part of the day was speaking to the museum staff who were a treat to meet and so helpful.

Experience what your characters might experience

Another form that research can take, is experiencing what your character(s) experience.  I did this by taking the train journey that I’d planned for my character, Esme Timmins, in Once Upon A Lie.  She travels from her home in Waverton to Kings Cross on a Saturday morning in the middle of summer, so I decided to do this journey myself on a Saturday morning and in summer.  A bit over the top, you think?  Maybe, but it helped me to describe what Esme saw and felt.

Rushcutters Bay
And it was, after all, on the way to Once Upon A Lie's murder scene at Rushcutters Bay on Sydney Harbour.  If one is writing a murder mystery, you just have to visit the crime scene.  This, of course, leads to lunch at the yacht club and a rather enjoyable afternoon.  Who said research was a dull pastime!

I’m sure there are many more ways to do research for a book.  What are yours?  Please share them with us.

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  1. Great advice and very thorough. What fun researching, Jill. I could see doing lunch at the yacht club and an interesting train journey. No wonder you describe scenes so well in your mysteries. Love it!

    1. Thanks Anna. It gives me an excuse to do things I would otherwise not find myself doing.

  2. My novel was set on the other side of the Atlantic, and I wasn't in a position to visit it. But at one point, my MC visited the observation deck of City Hall, Los Angeles. I found a website with a 360 degree picture of the view from there. So even from thousands of miles away, I got to see what my character was seeing.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Carrie. And isn't it marvellous how you were able to see the view you wanted through technology. It just demonstrates how the web can help writers. I don't know what I'd do without it. Information and images are at our fingertips.