Step one in the writing process was all about getting the story idea down and sketching out the three acts of the story. That worked to get down the basic sketch of the story, of what would happen when and where and how. Step two in the writing process was all about figuring out the details, zooming into the people, the places, and the scenes. Step three is incredibly important, though depending on the story, not much of the actual work that is done in step three may make it into the story. Because step three is all about research.
Why research? Research is a hugely variable step in the writing process depending on the story being written. It is variable, but I would argue it is necessary no matter what kind of writing project is being undertaken. Any and all stories can benefit from research. Research leads to understanding, and understanding leads to creating a more authentic storytelling experience, because the writer knows what they are discussing. In one of my stories, I wrote about a character who goes on a hunt. It was very obvious to one of my peer critique partners that I’d never been hunting, and because I didn’t do the proper research to fully understand the process, the chapter and experience of my character hunting fell completely flat. Now, whether I understand a process or not, I strive to know it on a deeper level for the sake of my stories.
What to research? This is where the variable part really comes in. I ask questions of myself and my story. I ask what I’m writing about, what don’t I know, what do I want to more about, what is something I kind of know but only from shows or movies, etc. to get a jumping off point into what research I need to complete. As I’m doing the first two steps of the writing process, I more often than not will come out with a list of questions for this part of the process. Researching can happen by digging into Google, borrowing books on the topic, questioning an expert, or through videos on YouTube. All of the information gathered during the process will be helpful to create a more enriched experience for the characters in the story.
What does your research process look like when you’re writing? How do you go about diving into a topic to research? In case you haven’t heard today, you’re more than enough.
A very important disclaimer, as seen in previous steps of this process: This answer is going to be vastly different from writer to writer, and sometimes project to project. The steps in this series are not meant to be followed exactly and precisely each and every time a writer takes on a project. I’m describing the steps and the process I loosely follow when starting a writing project. Each part and piece is a distilled version from advice, workshops, conferences, worksheets, teacher training, student experience, and other things I know I’m surely forgetting that have all settled into this version of what my writing process, generally speaking, is today.