I suppose it depends upon the type of book that you’re writing!
Traditionally, authors usually did a lot of description along with massive preambles, which most readers today would find quite cumbersome. These days, most people simply don’t have the time or the concentration for too much description and prefer to be thrown straight into the action!
So far, the description in my books has been very minimal, as I am acutely aware that the patience of most modern readers hangs by a thread. Of course, if you hook your readers with the story and characters then they’re more likely to stick around, but nobody wants to be bogged down by too much description! As long as you paint a clear picture for your readers, then you have done your duty as a writer.
The description should enrich and supplement the story, not distract from it! If I ever feel that the description is going off on a tangent then I reign it back in, unless it’s important to the narrative. However, some genres naturally lend themselves to more description, such as science fiction and fantasy. In these cases, the readers usually crave as much detail as possible about the world that you’ve created.
But regardless of where your story is set, try to keep the story flowing at all times and prevent your description from stalling things. Rather than have a solid paragraph describing something, try feeding the information to the reader in dribs and drabs. Not only will they appreciate you for it, but they’ll probably remember the information much better too!
As a writer, I think that research is immensely important.
You need to know the world you are writing about, otherwise you will run the risk of inaccuracies and flaws, which may annoy your readers. So don’t take anything for granted… if you’re unsure on something you’re writing about (i.e. the rankings of the British Army), then make sure that you look into it and get it right!
My first book was set in the fifties (forty years before I was born), so I did a lot of research for it! I wanted to paint an accurate picture of the time period, so I read books and looked online about it, making sure that every little detail was accurate. What did people eat? What did they do in their spare time? What sort of clothes did they wear? All of these questions were relevant and allowed me to progress with the story.
My second book, on the other hand, required very little research because it was heavily based on personal experiences. For these sorts of projects, the ones that you’ve lived through or experienced through the eyes of others, you don’t have to worry as much about research because you already know everything that you want to convey. However, it’s still good to check that you’ve got things right.
As for my latest project, set in a fantasy world, I thought that a lot of research would be required. However, I soon came to the realisation that my world has its own rules, so I’m not bound to issues of accuracy! Of course, research is helpful if you’re looking for ideas or elements to base your fantasy world on, but for the most part, you have free rein.
The most important tip from this post is to research what you’re unsure about. Don’t just blag something and think you’ll get away with it because there’ll be people out there who will know that you’ve got it wrong! So do your research and have fun with your writing!