I went to a Guardian Masterclass this week on Researching Your Novel, run by Alex Preston, with Hermione Eyre as guest speaker.
Packed with useful advice, here are a few of the main pointers:
1. Take yourself seriously as a writer – and if that means renouncing tv, sport, time with your partner – then so be it…
2. Use primary sources, that is interviewing people, as much as you can. Tom Clancy did this for The Hunt For Red October, asking submariners in-depth questions about their reactions, routines and feeling to life onboard. He became feted for his research, largely done through interviews and textbooks.
3.Shape and discover your characters through writing short stories about them. (David Mitchell apparently sends himself letters from his characters as he shapes a novel).
4.Love your research, make it your friend, talk with it and revel in the patterns that emerge.
5.Remember information is secondary to your character development.
6. And that your readers don’t have to believe events did happen – but that they could…
7.T.S.Eliot said ‘Good writers borrow, great writers steal’.
We were reminded of the importance today of branding for writers – and here’s an account of the London Book Fair which demonstrates vividly how successful self-publishers do this.