I’m a proper sucker for getting outside and harnessing real world tastes and smells to put into a work in progress or to squirrel away in a notebook for a rainy day. My love of research trips is evidenced by the photo for this post, taken by Alyssa Hollingsworth, when we were clambering around Wales, a place that has inspired my writing for years.
Of course there have been plenty of times when I’ve used books and films for research (I’m looking at you, Blue Planet) to get some amazing details for my writing. But doing a research trip is a great excuse to get some fresh air and get your ideas churning – it’s amazing what a walk can do to solve writing problems.
Traveling alone or with fellow writers is the best idea when you want to do research, because they won’t be fazed if you spend ages poring over exhibit notes in the British Museum or standing on cliff tops making notes about the landscape or the way the salt air tastes.
Recently I was lucky enough to be scampering about the British Isles with Becca, a fellow writer from my MA.
In June, I visited her up in Northumberland. In July, we met up in Belfast. Here are some of my research highlights:
- Visiting the Farne Islands and noting the epic STINK of the seabird colonies and the way the seal colonies blend so perfectly into the rocks
- The splendidly crooked corridors of Lindesfarne Castle
- Tramping along Hadrian’s Wall in the thickening mist
- Trekking around the Giant’s Causeway (after having watched The BFG!)
- Hunting for Sycamore Gap in the rain
- Seeing a whale’s ear bone at the Ulster museum
Research trips don’t have to be far flung, expensive or overly physically exhausting, so they can suit every writer. Some of my favourite trips have been within the UK (as often noted by writers in the rain, our home can at least always be described as ‘atmospheric’.)
So what are you waiting for? All you need is something to write on and, if you’re better organised than me, a hot flask of tea.