Last Sunday I left for a week long camping trip in California. On the way there, I somehow convinced my family to stop and take a detour at a town I used for the setting of my novel. I'd never been there before. I'd driven past it on the freeway a handful of times, never stopping. Everything I knew about it came from online articles, Google maps, old census surveys, and of course Google images.
Taking that exit off the freeway was like driving through a portal to my imaginary world. We drove up and down the streets. I scribbled details in a spiral notebook and rolled down the window to take pictures. I scared several residents with my enthusiasm, questions, and video camera.
In my mind, I saw my characters playing out their dramas in the streets, arguing on front porches, walking down the road, working on their cars, playing basketball on a gravel court.
I fell in love with my story all over again.
And I thought of a million revisions.
My book will be so much better because of one little detour on our way to Yosemite. Forget sightseeing at a national park. The 45 minutes I spent wandering through a dusty little nothing town was more thrilling than anything I've done in years.
If you get a chance to visit a location you've used as a model setting for your book, take it. Especially if your setting is fictional. It's amazing research, it will add depth to your writing, and it's more fun than Disneyland.
Not that I wouldn't mind going there next. :)