No matter what you are writing good reference books are essential. They might be in a library that you have to travel to or on the internet, but at some point a writer will need to use a reference book. I have several dictionaries and thesauri, but I mean something more. I use Wikipedia to check that what I’m writing about is going to sound reasonable. I’m talking about encyclopedias and other books that talk about items you may use in your stories. I even have a book called Writing Monsters that I use to create alien creatures. There are also books on how to structure your writing to make it better. You might want to check out the physics of spaceflight and weightlessness. Your readers will notice if you write something totally wrong. Reference books can help you avoid popping your readers out of your story.
Doing the background research on a topic will help you make your writing come alive. Nonfiction writing requires it. Fiction is made up, right? Well, most of the time you can get away with no research, but it’s better to know what you are talking about. Not all flying dinosaurs were the size of aircraft. If there is one in your book, make sure you do the research. Readers check these things. I know I often do. If you have anyone with technical skills in your story, make those skills believable by using reference books or even talking to someone who has the same or similar skill sets. Your writing will be the better for it.
I do a lot of worldbuilding before I write my stories. Even if the story is set on present day Earth, I do a kind of world building. I basically build the sets, as though I were planning to film the story. If I know what the setting looks like in my head, I can better convey that to the reader. For one of my stories, I needed a town hall, so I googled the keywords “town hall” and “City Hall” to get images and floor plans. I use floor plans a lot. It lets me create believable places for my characters to move around in. That’s the goal. You want your readers to go with your characters. They will notice if the characters are floating in empty space. Adding details that you have created for them that seem real, will make them real to your readers.
Having reference books and materials can help you create a fictional world that your readers will be able to suspend disbelief and enjoy. It’s one of the most important things an author needs to do before writing a word of the story. While you can fact check during the writing or revision process, you need to do some research first. It will make your writing life easier in the long run and can teach you things as well. Never stop learning, that’s my motto. Learn to do the research first and the writing will flow better than if you are struggling to describe a saber-toothed cat when a good description exists in Wikipedia or any other reference book. When preparing to write a story, access to good reference materials is not only essential, it’s just plain good sense.
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