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  1. MarmaladeQueen
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    MarmaladeQueen Senior Member

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    Researching a novel

    Discussion in 'Research' started by MarmaladeQueen, Sep 24, 2011.

    I'm sure this must have been raised countless times before, but I can't find a sticky on it - hence a new thread.

    I do a lot of research online, but that can only take you so far. For example, I have a character living on a converted Dutch barge on the Thames, and I have so far failed to find out how they would (a) dispose of sewage and (b) get in supplies of water and diesel. Do the supplies come to them, or do they have to drive their boat to some kind of river service station?

    In the end, there is no substitute for real life research - talking to people, for example, who actually live on barges on the Thames.

    But I feel a complete idiot approaching people and saying that I'm wirting a novel and could I ask them some questions. I imagine that if I were a published author I would feel no such hestiation.

    How do other people approach this problem?
     
  2. Ubrechor
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    Ubrechor Active Member

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    I don't think there should be any difference between how you feel about it now and how you would feel if you were published. Either way, there's nothing wrong with it. If someone has the time, then ask them a few questions. It's just a different kind of research, and you're right - the internet is no substitute. You can only get so far if you limit your research to what you can find and read up on the internet.
     
  3. Morgan
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    Morgan Member

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    I agree with Ubrechor. There should be no difference. Even though I'm not a published author, when I plan to talk to people about writing, I make it a point to convince myself beforehand. I tell myself I'm a novelist, and should think like one. A published novelist in my mind would be self-confident, and ask pertinent questions, so that's what I do.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that most people enjoy talking about themselves and their interests. As long as you seem excited and interested in what they have to say, people will generally be happy to give you information. I imagine anyone living on a barge would be even more forthcoming than most, since they are likely to be the type who don't worry about following the rules.
     
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have no fear of emailing people whose websites have given me some but not enough detailed information. I have never, ever been turned down. Most have actually told me to let them know if I have further questions - more than happy to help out. Find someone who has posted a comment to a blog that seems to know about the things you're researching - again, most are happy to help.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You don't necessarily need to say you are working on a novel. Most people are pleased to meet someone who is interested in what they do for a living, or about an exotic experience they have had.

    But do keep track of who you get information from. For one thing, you may want to learn more from them sometime. Also, it's a matter of courtesy (at least!) to thank those sources of information if you do manage to get published.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, there are 'service stations' where one can load up on fuel and water and empty their sewage tanks...

    if the barge is permanently moored and isn't movable, then it's another problem altogether... but i'm sure there are local regulations covering such situations that you can find by googling for 'thames river barge mooring regs' or whatever...
     
  7. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    In my experience showing an interest in what someone has to say takes you a long way. My friends are always joking about how I meet strangers and end up hearing their life stories. It's because I take an interest. People fascinate me and I'm curious about everything.

    You don't need to say you're working on a novel. You can if you want to but it's not necessary. Like others have said in this thread people are generally more than happy to share if someone shows an interest. :)
     
  8. CULLEN DORN
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    CULLEN DORN Member

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    MarmaladeQueen --

    Surprisingly some people might 'open up' if they knew you to be a writer/novelist
    interested in knowing something about their livelihood or subjects close to their
    experience. I believe complete honesty is the best approach.
    :)
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Saying you are working on a novel presents an epectation that what is discussed will, or at least may, someday be available in print. There are quite a few reasons you might not want to push that expectation.

    However, I'm not suggesting you deceive sources by disseminating information told to you in confidence.

    Just know that expectations that something may appear in pring can either lead to exaggeration or holding back information.
     

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