You must know the setting of your novel like you know your own hometown. In Cara Putnam’s class, she advised even creating a map of the area. This helps you as a writer maintain consistency.
But perhaps even more importantly, it helps you develop a picture of the story’s setting. This is what your reader needs. So paint the descriptions for them!
Use all five senses. Make notations on your map as you add details to the story. This will help you continue to build a sense of the area. Depict the seasons. Every local is different. What makes this region special?
Allow your setting to drive the mood. Research specifics about the area and find the charm…fear…or whatever notion drives your story.
Make the setting integral. If placed in the real world, visit the area if possible. Otherwise, Google map it. “Walk” the streets. Study images of the area online. Find what’s special about the local.
If you’re able to visit, interview those you encounter. They know what draws visitors to the region, and what makes the town special. Where do people eat? What types of jobs fill the area? Ask them about the town history, and why they chose to live there.
Do your research. Cause your reader to visit a new world. Isn’t that, after all, why we love our books?