As you know, among other things, I write medical romance and I try hard to make sure the medical information in the stories is authentic and correct. I also write books with a variety of settings and storylines and I like to make sure I can give a real life feel to the places we visit and the things my characters do. This involves quite a large amount of time researching cities and restaurants, activities available, ‘things to do’ etc.
Because I’m a ‘pantser’ and not a plotter (which means I don’t plan the story out in advance) I never know exactly what my characters are going to be doing even on the day I’m writing a particular scene so researching in advance is not possible (although I do try to set my books in places I have visited so I have a vague idea of sounds /smells/atmosphere etc). So I have to research as I go, unlike plotters who usually have everything researched well in advance (oh, to be a plotter!!!)
Often this means that me and Mr Google are very good friends. I use Google Earth to literally ‘walk’ down a road and see what is around. This is why in Reunited By Their Secret Son has a large garden opposite Sophie’s house… I stumbled upon it when I was walking through the Edinburgh streets online! I can see what flowers are out, what the houses are made of, how wide the roads are, where the local shops are etc…
I learnt the hard way that researching as I go is easier for me. My very first book (which will never see the light of day) was a dreary historical novel set in the Crimean war. As a nurse I had a fascination with Florence Nightingale and as a writer I wanted to get aspects of her life and the kind of nursing they did in the war correct, so I spent literally days reading and reading and reading and reading longwinded historical books, taking copious notes in long hand and going down a zillion random rabbit holes chasing ‘the shiny’ information that wasn’t relevant…. to the detriment of actually writing the book!!
Now my deadlines mean I don’t have the luxury to do such long winded research and when I’m chasing a daily word count I often do the writing and leave marks like this <><><><> in my manuscript which mean do some research for details here. But mainly, I just stop and Google and fill in the blanks as I go, oh I am so glad we live in internet times and I don’t need to go to the library every time I need information about the best Naples pizzerias or how to do open heart surgery (and everything in between!!) .
(You do not want to see my search engine history!!!!!!!!)