How to Research Your Book Without Travelling

This student has been coming to me once a month over 8 years. I have supported and encouraged her artistic work, not only vocally but also her paintings, which were recently exhibited in a commercial gallery an sold quite well.

Sarah Bowman

Sarah Bowman, attended workshops, writing groups, read & write constantly, novel-in-progress

Ever heard the term “gold-digger”? I personally don’t understand why people need financial support to write a book. Obviously you have access to the basic requirements: computer and internet. You should also have access to a public library. Use them. Bypass the gold-digging.

If you can’t travel to far-off places and fancy museums featuring long-ago times and places, stick with what you’ve got access to. Or make creative use of the resources at your disposal. Start with Wikipedia or online tour guides and advertisements to learn about far-off places, email for more information. Keep digging till you get a personal contact who is happy to teach you via long chatty emails all she or he knows about the place. Read books, encyclopedia entries, histories, geographies, weather maps and reports, geological surveys. That’s how I work and I’ve read of other authors who worked the same way.

Find any online or library information on population, income, lifestyle that can be gleaned from government reports like census. The governments of most countries in the world have a basic website up. The American government has a website listing basics about every country in the world. Your public librarian is a priceless resource and can direct you to more resources. For the price of a few bus tickets you should be able to get all this. You’ll need a library card and time to study but that’s what evenings and weekends are for. No need to ask your student—of all people—for money, especially not if she’s paying you for services rendered.

That’s my opinion and advice, assuming you want to continue the easy relationship you’re had with her all these years. I say this because the minute monetary favours become part of the relationship, especially favours given by the weaker party (student) to the more powerful party (teacher), feelings become really messy really fast.

P.S. More ideas on making use of available resources may be posted on the website or forums of WritersDigest.com.

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