averys writing research

Novel Research


hen I first set out to write a novel I don’t think I was aware of the amount of research that would go into planning and making sure I get things right. I have so many moving pieces to my story, military, disabled characters, a setting that I’d never been to, careers I had no clue about, etc…the list goes on and on.

I know that we can’t watch a show with any military reference without my husband cursing at the television, ahem, correcting, how wrong they always get it. Either the formation is wrong, the uniform is completely off, etc… He will pick it apart to no end.

you fucked it up soldier in uniform

Thankfully I have him there to tell me just how much I fucked up, ahem, guide me when I miss the mark.

Oh boy, do I botch it at times. 

So, when I first began writing about disabled characters, I knew I was going to need to do my homework. It’s a scary thing writing about a marginalized community. You are putting yourself out there for huge backlash if you get it wrong. I never wanted to diminish the struggles, but I also didn’t want to portray them as weak. I wanted to handle it with the utmost sensitivity, realism and paint my heroes and heroines in a positive affirming light.

I’m a researcher to a fault. I’ll spend hours pouring over medical case reports, researching different types of conditions to make sure that I hit things spot on scientifically. I researched O&M training, physical therapy websites, prosthesis websites, blogs, YouTube, books, articles, the Reddit community. Oh and guide dogs. That was a favorite, I mean, who doesn’t LOVE dogs?

If I’m unsure of a detail, even a minute one, I’ll research it. I go too far at times. Like seriously, does my reader actually care that I researched the time of the liquor store closing on Sunday in my heroines neighborhood?

OMG I need help

As far as researching my setting, the majority of my first novel takes place in DC. I’d never been there when I first started writing, so I spent a lot of time online and embedded in Google maps, searching local bars and coming up with locations for scenes in my novel. This was a TON of fun. What was even more fun was when I actually got to take a trip to DC and experience it first hand. You can read all about that here.

Some of the research was grueling. Some of the research was a lot of fun. I learned a lot. The medical stuff didn’t bother me. I grew up in the days of Trapper John MD and love me some Grey’s Anatomy so that kind of research was right up my alley.

novel research

For one of my novels I had to research overseas adoption. For another I needed to research some legal stuff. This is about where I almost pulled my hair out. The only thing that comes even close to being as mind numbingly awful as criminal law is politics. (Yes, I see the irony that my novel(s) takes place in DC, but politics really don’t play a huge role). My husband will talk politics and I sit there and nod as my eyes glaze over.

Boo sleepy gif

Anyhow, I learned so much I knew I would just wow my husband with how detailed I got hitting the mark on this stuff. Then he tells me to trim it down.

Woah. Wait. All that time I spent learning I’m just supposed to cut? You mean I go into TOO much detail?

No, there is too much. Let me sum it up.

The fact that my first novel was clocking in at 117K words tells me yes, I may have the problem of going into too much detail.

So, I learned above all that you can research a subject to death. There is a fine line to walk between giving the right information and giving TOO MUCH information.

Happy researching!
avery signature

washington monument in dreamscape

IGWriters Oct – Day 9


ay nine for IGWriters October was “Adventures in Writing.”

On one of my writing forums I recently saw the question asked “Have you ever visited any of the towns/locations that you write about.”

Most were divided on this. Many authors make up imaginary towns (can you say “Forks”) where there story takes place. I prefer to keep my stories grounded in the real world, to really give a feel for the setting.

I decided to have my series take place in Washington, DC. When I started writing my first novel, I’d never been to DC, but it was on my bucket list of places to visit. I have always been fascinated by the history of our Nations Capitol and I also wanted a city that had close public transportation. (My heroine is blind but I wanted to make sure she was fierce and independent).

I spent a LOT of time doing research. I embedded myself in Google maps. I read about local bars, restaurants. I looked up homes, apartment buildings. I even went so far as to research liquor store hours on a Sunday make sure that the store would be open at the time my hero went to grab a bottle of whiskey.

Ok, so maybe I take it a BIT too far at times. 

Anyhow, my point is that I want it to be as real as possible. I don’t want someone who lives in the city I’m writing about to think I didn’t at least try and do my research.

Finally at long last I was able to go to DC. I went solo, and trolled all over the city by myself and I had a blast. I had lunch with a homeless man at a hot dog cart. I got escorted out of the Smithsonian by security due to the length of my shank. (What can I say, I’m a rebel with a pocketknife, don’t mess with me).  I navigated the public transportation system solo, met and chatted with strangers, who pretty much loved my delightfulness. I got lost on the subway and wound up with a dead cell phone in the less privileged areas of DC. I wasn’t too worried though, because I was too busy giggling with two old black ladies who were just the best, and saw the cutest little six year old selling chocolate bars to buy a bike, so I of course pitched in a few bucks.

I took my heroine’s metro to Arlington, had coffee at the Starbucks in her neighborhood, and stood outside the complex that I’d consider her apartment.

I went to a bar in Georgetown that I wrote about in my first novel and listened to live music.

I went to Arlington cemetery and saw the changing of the guards. It was sobering yet beautiful. I went off the beaten path and saw Washington National Cathedral. I walked the mall. Twice. In one day (along with the tidal basin). Then I walked through Chinatown and back down past the White House. I googled it and it was something like thirteen miles. My feet hated me.

Many people were shocked that I traveled solo. I’m a bit shocked that everyone was so shocked.

Be brave, be bold, you only get this one life to live and there is SO much beauty to see in this world!

(I’m pretty sure that’s me channeling my inner “Tori”).

I loved that city, with all that is in me. I can’t wait to go back.

avery signature