Writing a novel – a writer’s journal part 5

Searching, searching, searching – doing Research

One of the interesting aspects of writing my current novel is the research that is involved. Normally, especially when writing short stories, I have a vague idea of the plot and characters and just blaze away with the first draft. During rewriting I will tidy up the story and make it work as a story. Editing often tightens up the plot and corrects any spelling and punctuation boo-boos. There is often little scope – or need – for much background research. I usually write what I know, or draw on my fertile imagination to fill in the gaps.

Not so with a novel. With my current work in progress – the novel I’m writing as my thesis paper for my MA – I am expected to show evidence of appropriate research. This is not the way I normally work, so it is stretching me beyond my normal practices. This is good, and is what doing my MA is all about. The writing of specific short stories, poems and essays has stretched my writing skills in amazing ways.

Doing background research for my novel has had a wonderful side effect. It is giving me a deeper understanding of the setting of my novel. More about that in a future post on this blog. All I will say now is that the novel, which is being written with children as my audience in mind, is set in Nepal during the recent civil war. Soaking myself in the culture of the country is proving to be a fascinating experience; so much so I am almost forgetting to attend to the actual writing.

All this research is helping me on my journey. It is a journey of discovery, not only of an amazing culture, but also of finding out the story of my main character. He is based upon a photo I took of a boy during a visit to Nepal in 2006. I wondered: What is his story? In discovering many aspects of the culture, the country, the people and the times in which my story is set, I am discovering this boy’s story. It is a growing, organic world; it may be fiction, but it is becoming a real place for me.

I now have to make sure that the fascination with the research does not take over and replace the writing.

For more articles in this series about writing a novel click here.

Good writing.


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