If funds permit, I prefer to go to a place, if the scenes I want to describe are lengthy and rather detailed. When it comes to locations, there is no substitute for going there to see for yourself. You spot things that can be found in no memoir, no guidebook, no Google entry—small details that, collectively, create “the ring of truth” (an overused but still accurate phrase).link
If I want a scene on a Scottish trawler in the Denmark Strait, I’ll find an old fishing skipper in the Scottish town of Peterhead and ask him to tell me what it was like. And here’s the joy of it: Most veterans simply love to describe their area of expertise. The problem is usually synthesizing what you really need for your story from the hours of fond reminiscences of the old boy in the cardigan.
I have a reputation for writing fast—about 45 days per novel. But that is deceptive. Ten standard pages a day is not a back-breaker, just six hours tapping away. That will yield 450 pages, a completed thriller novel.
What does not emerge from that figure is the six preceding months of slow, painstaking research, resulting in several tables spread with personal notes, tear sheets from magazines, cut-out newspaper articles, maps, photos and reference books. And all those jotted interviews with the experts.
Frankly, the research is the interesting bit, not the tapping of keys. link