Researching as a Writer: Get Hands-On!

When undertaking a large writing project, or anything non-fiction, the need to do some research will probably arise.

Now, the word ‘research’ makes most people think of something like this:


And feel something like this:

But something has been sadly overlooked in these thoughts: we’re writers! And that’s exciting!

I’m not going to lie, sometimes research can be a complete drag and involve trawling through lots of books until your brain has less capacity than a chunk of broccoli. But there are other methods out there. Writing is a creative activity, so why shouldn’t planning for it be creative as well?

The internet is a wondrous place, and if utilised wisely can provide inspiration as well as knowledge. Pinterest is a great place for this, as demonstrated by the author Zoë Marriott who has boards full of gorgeous pictures relating to each of her novels. Collecting images is a wonderful way to explore the ideas in your head. Finding likenesses will cement them, and probably throw up new ideas as well. Doing research online also means that you can share it with others and give them a glimpse of what you’re working on without having to worry about spoilers.

There are also many ways you can be ‘hands-on’ when researching. If possible, participating in similar activities to your characters is a great way to empathise with them. When working her Glass Series, a trilogy of fantasy novels about a young girl who makes glass animals, Maria V. Snyder attended glass blowing classes to learn the craft for herself. Doing research like this teaches you so much more than you can get from just reading a book or a webpage. It lets you feel your story. Plus, it’s fun! One of my characters is a ribbon dancer in a travelling circus, so…..

Shortly after this was taken, I hit myself in the eye…

Being a writer isn’t just about putting one word after another. It’s about feeling and seeing the world, and capturing pieces of it. Research can be time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be dull or hold you back from being creative. Whatever you’re writing about, exploring it in other ways will give you extra material to work with which is never a bad thing. So get out there, get investigating, and see what new experiences you can have to enrich your writing!


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Amelia Starling is a writer and folklorist. She graduated from the University of Winchester with a degree in Creative Writing, and is Senior Editor for Folklore Thursday. She loves travelling and collecting stories, and spent 15 months living in Japan doing this alongside teaching English. Amelia blogs about folklore and fairy tales at The Willow Web. You can follow her on Twitter @amyelize.

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