As an author of technology thrillers, Nicole Wilson does a lot of research before she ever pens the first word. Here is a great article about her research process.
So there’s this funny thing called “research” that creeps up on unsuspecting writers. There are two sides to this: Some want to write without having to do any research (cough cough me). Others have to limit themselves on how much research they’re allowed to do or they’ll get carried away. Regardless of which side authors fall on, research is a necessity for most.
How much research is necessary is dictated by the book. It varies by genre, setting, situation, etc. But, for the most part, it’s important to get the facts straight. Readers pay attention, and it throws them when something is almost right, but there’s one thing off. It takes them out of the book. They’re no longer immersed in the story, which is the exact opposite of what writers want.
Writing in the thriller genre, I work in today’s world. Therefore, I need to know the basic layout and feel of cities (even if I do end up butchering it; then I can claim it was “for the book”). I need to get whatever the topic of my book is straight so I can figure out where to stick to real life and where to deviate. My books have a lot of technology in them, so I need to know how that technology works. For historical fiction, it may seem obvious that research is pivotal. Readers pick that book up partially so they can experience what 12th century villages were like. Fantasy may not seem so obvious. “They can make up their world so what do they have to research?” However, a lot of fantasy has basis in the real world, or some basis in our scientific principles (e.g. how physics works, gravity), so they need to research in order to create their own realistic imaginary world.
When to do the research is a matter of preference. Some authors do it before plotting, some do it before writing, some wait until they’re in the moment and need information. I (now) do mine early on, though I usually do some research throughout as I come across things I didn’t think of in planning.
Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com.