A lot of writers, agents and editors, or just people in general, will tell you to write about the things that you know, that you’re familiar with. Obviously, that has its merits, but it can be very limiting in terms of the subject matter you can use in your writing.
I don’t write science fiction or historical fiction or any other genre that would require a very specific and in-depth knowledge. I write contemporary stories about ordinary people, focusing on what they feel and how they behave. Still, for every book or story I ever wrote, I had to do some research. Mostly, that included details about a certain place, event or person, maybe some history, a few cooking techniques etc. This usually means that I do the research as I go along, while I write and when I come upon the topic that needs researching. I never do the research in advance.
Most often, I can do my research on the internet. On occasion I read a book or watch a film (an enjoyable type of research, I tell ya!). Google maps come in handy, too – in fact, I’m using it a lot lately since I’m writing a story that takes place in Paris. The most unusual topic I researched was how a car burns when doused with gas and lit on fire. Then there were mental illnesses, how to protect a vineyard against frost, and snowboarding.
Research is very rewarding in itself. I’ve learned all sorts of things (mostly useless, but fun) since I’ve started writing. For me, it’s very enjoyable because I like to learn and discover new stuff. So lately, I’ve been wanting to write about something that would require a lot of research. I don’t have any ideas yet, but I’d really like to enter a new world, an environment I don’t know anything about. I think it would be fun.
How much research do you do? Do you research before you start writing? Or do you write about the things you’re already familiar with?