Monday, 7 June 2010

More Research by Marie-Louise Jensen


I love researching a new era. It's one of my favourite things about writing historical fiction. I'm not a history expert and my knowledge of history is patchy and based largely on my fiction reading. So I have to do a great deal of research.
If I'm researching British history, my first port of call is the library. And once I've staggered home with more books than I could sensibly carry (or that I can realistically read in the three week loan period) I confess, I often feel pretty daunted. But then once I get two or three book into the era, I'm usually captivated, fascinated and engaged. And inspired too - and for me this is the very best thing about historical writing: the historical details themselves often provide inspiration for all sorts of story details.
Admittedly they occasionally block what I thought was a good plot idea as well, because some things turn out to be quite different to how I'd imagined them. But the research definitely gives more than it takes.
A tip for anyone about to start researching an era, especially of you're writing for young people: include a selection of children's history books as well as weighty adult tomes. They are so much more accessible and give you the big picture very quickly and easily. And they often include child-friendly details omitted from the scholarly tomes that often become bogged down in the political details of the times.
I've been amused this time around, by the fact that each time I've opened a new (adult) history book on the Georgian section, I've found exactly the same piece of writing, even though the books have different publishers. Someone's obviously done well for themselves, selling the same text to a number of publishers. They didn't even bother to tweak it....

6 comments:

Penny Dolan said...

Think there's a law that says that as soon as you have a usefully large pile of books that you really must read to progress your writing, life goes haywire. I'm on my third online renewal here! Enjoyable post, Marie-Louise. Thanks.

karen ball said...

I hear so often that a good children's non-fiction title is the best first stop for research. I often find highly-illustrated non-fiction hugely useful, too - it really is true that you can absorb so much just from looking at a picture. (Don't know what that says for us writers...!) I always thought I'd find research dull, but whenever I've had to do it, it's been so stimulating. Great post. How bizarre about the re-used text!

Becky said...

That's a great tip. Thanks for the advice.

Sue Purkiss said...

I do agree about research. I've really enjoyed doing research. So much so that I've usually had to almost force myself to put the books on one side and actually start to write!

Jan Markley said...

That's good advice. I was recently in the British Museum doing some research and loved it!

Jan Markley said...
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