(Did you play the game yet? Let’s Play a Game! Win a free ecopy.)

Researching is important.

Problems arise when you research too much or not enough.

Research is a rabbit hole. It’s more like a black hole. You fall in and may never make it out again.

That cannot make you fear researching. As if it cannot be done. Or it shouldn’t be done. As if we shouldn’t google or search. We’ll get lost. We’ll get discouraged.

I’m not saying you won’t. But, research is still important.

When you google information about your story, you can find many other stories just like it exist. Please don’t fear that. As long as it cannot be called fanfiction and you didn’t copy+paste, it’s fine. Maybe you need to change a character’s name or the title of the book or even your penname, but don’t fear putting the book out there just because XYZ already exists. (Read Cliches)

As for when it’s smart to google and for how long… It depends on the story.

My suggestion: make it less than a quarter of plotting time. Anything more than that is probably going to have you going deeper than necessary. How long should you plot? That also depends on story and writer. How long do you normally plot? Do you end up with something far beyond what’s needed for the story? Have you timed yourself?

Then write. Get the story down as quickly as possible. Don’t worry if you write the wrong gun for the time period or you make them handshake when it’s not commonplace at the time.

Those things can easily be changed in edits.

No seriously, very few items cannot be changed during edits. You should have picked up the big stuff for the area if you spent any time researching. And if you had a specific idea going in, you should have done your research for that event, time, place, etc.

Matching to history normally means you need research and plotting.

“What if the name doesn’t exist then?” That’s an easy fix.

“What if that vegetable wasn’t created yet?” Again easy fix.

“What if…”

Unless it’s a pivotal piece to the entire story, it’s an easy fix.

And if it’s not? Congrats, you just mixed science fiction and historical. Don’t try to completely rework the plot to fit the truth if it requires everything to change.

How do I know if it needs to be fixed?

Research each item you think may be a concern. Every proper noun. Proper nouns mean actual items. Anything specific should be questioned. Anything you name, the action, just double check by putting your time period place and action in. Nothing comes up? No problem if it would exist in the normal sense.

Don’t dive deep.

Set a timer when researching. Go five minutes for a quick search or fifteen minutes for a longer one. If the timer goes off and you don’t have an answer, reset it. If you ended up going off track, it will bring you back on track.

Make a list of items you want to research and the page or paragraph or chapter they belong to.

If the work does not match up with history, so what? Will the average person know? Or will you only have history buffs complaining? Most stuff can be glossed over and ignored. Or you can mark it as fantasy or fiction. It doesn’t have to be marked as historical if you moved too far from real history.

If you are not writing non-fiction, it doesn’t matter as much.


Make the story believable.

As long as a reader can believe the story, they won’t be bothered by a failure to research properly.

(Did you play the game yet? Let’s Play a Game! Win a free ecopy.)

[Writer’s Stuff] [About Cat Hartliebe]

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