Status: Book 1 done; editing book 2
It's ironic our topic this month is research, as I'm doing that for one of the books in my series. My research process usually involves doing broad, in-depth research before I begin writing, then specific--and hopefully minor--research as needed while writing the book. However, this research may become more intense than I anticipated.
Like Paty, I research in a variety of ways. If possible, I like to visit the setting of my stories. In the case of my series, the town is fictional, but I visited the Eastern Oregon gold mining area where this fictional town is located. I also drew on my experiences growing up near a small town to add realism to my story town--but fictionalized, of course!
Character careers also develop from a variety of research processes. One of my heroines is a social worker. I worked with child welfare workers for nearly twenty years. A number of the heroes in the series are police officers. Part of my research was attending a Citizen Police Academy that offered a wealth of information about law enforcement.
Some people also suggested watching certain television shows, though I'm rather cautious about using that method unless it can be verified from another source.
I also do a lot of research on the Internet. Again, I try to verify the information from more than one source.
Fiction books also give me a good insight for how a character in a certain career might act or feel. It's also incredibly valuable to talk to people in the same career as my hero or heroine, say a firefighter, because their actions or mannerisms or how they respond to questions tell me a great deal about how this person might react to situations in my story.
However, research can only take a writer so far. Much to my mother's bafflement, there comes a time when I just let creativity loose and make stuff up. What I write isn't based on "real" people or settings. For me, that's one of the really fun parts of being a fiction writer!