I've often times thought about the way authors used to do research. When I read a novel that was written prior to 1990, I realize that pretty much every element would have been researched differently than the way I do it today. Writing a thriller set in the present day would have taken hours of library investigations, site visits, personal contacts, and other laborious research.
Today, it generally requires three elements -- possibly a technical expert (I had a Navy SEAL review several of the action sequences in INCENTIVIZE, specifically to examine the plausibility of the scenarios and the procedures/lingo), a translator (In my novel SYNERGY, I have a significant amount of dialog that takes place in Portuguese, and will need someone that is fluent in that language look it over -- after I've drafted it using Google Translate), and my most important research tool, the internet.
I develop the finer strokes of plot with a browser window open, researching all kinds of subjects. For the first draft I'm presently working on -- OUTSOURCED -- a tale that takes place in China, I recently researched the following subjects:
- Chinese Tea Ceremonies
- Chinese Opera
- Chinese Theater Museum
- Bullet trains from Beijing to Shanghai
- Layout of the Forbidden City
- Expat housing in Beijing
- Various roads and routes in Beijing
- Chinese spy organizations
- Military structure
- Chinese rocket and missile programs
These are just the ones that made it into the novel. I've looked at various other possible plot developments that I've discarded. Every day when working on a first draft, I research anywhere from two to four subjects for possible inclusion in the novel.
Thank goodness the internet is readily available to perform this work. I can't imagine the amount of time I would have spent doing all of this at a library!