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Friday, March 7, 2014

How to Research Like a Writer

There’s a new Sci-Fi book receiving a lot of buzz and it’s The Martian by Andy Weir.  I haven’t read the book yet but it’s definitely on my list of books to read.  In the meantime, there’s a very interesting article by him on research.

It’s not uncommon for writers to mention at networking events such as writer’s conferences that their readers call them out on getting their facts correct.  You’d think that with fiction you wouldn’t have to worry about this as much but that’s just not true, especially if you use a real place or real people in your stories.

That being said, Mr. Weir makes some excellent points about how research can be subjective and creative, especially if you don’t want your story to be negatively impacted by the facts.  It’s definitely a challenge to inform readers through fiction without overwhelming them with information.  Often too much narrative or reciting of facts can affect pacing and the overall flow of a story, and we’ve all read stories where this has happened.

Another important point that Mr. Weir makes is that not everything on the Internet is “legitimate” or even truthful.  Just think about all the online scams that fool people time after time and it’s easy to see where information if presented as factual can be deceptive.  Just because a site is all glossy and pretty, that doesn’t mean that the information contained on the site is reliable.

So how do you know?  Well, sometimes you don’t but as a general rule it’s always a good idea to not rely on just one source for any of your research.  I personally like at least three sources for verifying information and I actually have always felt this way, even before the internet.

Now the internet has added an additional wrinkle in that browsers now are programmed to learn how you search and will actually try to focus your results.  This can be good, this can be bad and this can be ugly, so I strongly recommend that you not only use different sources but also different browsers when you really want to find out complete information about something on the internet.

The good news is that with the Internet, it is much easier to access multiple sources for information and through multiple browsers.

Here’s the link for Mr. Weir’s article:


  1. Good advice, Terri! It's always best to follow up on the facts!