How Much Research Is Necessary?

I’m often asked how much research I do for my stories. Well, I have to admit, not too much. Depending on the romance sub-genre you write for, the level of research necessary for your stories varies greatly. For a writer of historical fiction, careful research is vital. Anyone writing fantasy has to build characters/worlds for their stories which I imagine relies on extensive research. Same applies to futuristic romance. Thankfully for contemporary romance stories, we’re let off the hook a lot.

My friend Loree Lough said on the very first night in her writing class I was the only person who already knew my preferred genre. She was right, of course. Sweet/clean contemporary romance was where I belonged.

At that early stage of my career, I’d never given any thought to research, so this had no bearing on my choice of genre. I can’t remember actively researching anything for my early stories. I just wrote what was around me. While writing “Wilderness Liaison” I did read a few tramping books to remind myself of the delights and dangers of the bush. And in “Leath’s Legacy” I’d included a secondary character with Alzheimer’s so I spent time researching this affliction. Luckily the local Alzheimer’s Society in Wanganui has an office in the main street so I was able to talk to staff there. I felt I got more reliable information from them than surfing the Net.

While I do Google certain little points I may want to include in a story. In “Worlds Collide” I queried where my heroine’s ultra-rich parents might live. I generally rely on looking out the window and my own memory.  Choosing to set most of my stories in New Zealand, and in places I know quite well, I negate the need to do much research for my settings. Writing contemporary stories also negates researching for other details. Places, transport, clothing, happening events are included as I see them around me.

The bulk of any research I do is much more defined. It’s a continuing search to find different ways to express what’s happening in a story. Which words should I use so a reader is immediately aware of whatever situation the character might be in? Which possible body language might portray what I need?

I admit to being quite lazy. Serious research takes up a lot of time. I prefer to write my story rather than spend much time researching details for it. I spent a lot of time—probably two weeks—researching Alzheimer’s to put maybe half a dozen sentences into a 70,000 word story.  That was a lot of time, while not wasted by any means, away from my writing.

I’m so thankful being a contemporary romance writer means I don’t need to spend a colossal amount of time away from actual writing.

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