One of the hardest things about writing is research. Beyond creating polished writing, you also want to make sure that you know what you are writing about. And this can be hard work.
Sometimes the research is simple. If you are writing about a recipe, all you have to do is cook the meal again to estimate measurements and cooking times.
But some research is a lot harder. For example, if you are writing about a character who lives in London or San Francisco, and you’ve never been there, it’s impossible to spring for a ticket, just for the sake of your story. This is when knowing how to research (for free!) becomes valuable.
Social media: Say your story requires you to know how much a pound of rice costs in India, or the name of the best school in Israel. These sorts of small factoids are best researched via social media. Once, in the pre-Facebook era, when I wanted to know how much an underage illegal worker could earn in Calcutta in the early ‘90s, I asked my mother who then interviewed someone who might know the answer. Today, I would spare her the trouble, and ask my friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter, to essentially crowdsource my query.
Internet: The Internet has made life incredibly easy for researchers. Wikipedia is a gold mine of information that I hope every writer employs. For writers who are working on events that occurred several years ago, newspapers like the New York Times or Wall Street Journal also have archives that can offer details of daily news as far back as ten years ago, and maybe used as a resource. If you are writing about a far away place, and want to know a bit more about the topography or street details of the place, you could easily employ Google’s very helpful Google earth or Google street view.
Libraries and librarians: While a lot of people believe that librarians only check out and shelve books, librarians are actually trained to answer complicated questions and help you find the resources for research. The local librarian is possibly the best free resource that many writers overlook.
Trying it yourself: There are certain things that you have to actually experience before you can write about it. To write effectively on recipes, DIY projects, sports, etc., you do have to actually cook the meal, finish the project, or engage in the sport. Without experiencing these, your writing will sound superficial and not engage your readers in the way you’d like it to.