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:~: Monday, February 26, 2007 :~:

Losing Myself In Research

I admit it. I'm a research guru. Love it. I love looking up things I don't know. I could spend hours on Google, just researching book ideas or story concepts or (as I did the other night) how, for example, scientists can learn so much from one tiny strand of hair. While I don't write historicals, I love books set in rich history - elements from long ago that come into play now. Clues, patterns, historical figures that impact society today. A lot of my books have some kind of rich history associated with the suspense aspect of a story set in modern times.

However, as you probably can already tell, all this research can really bog one down (me!). Someone on my chapter loop asked the other day if we did research before we wrote or during. I admit to doing both. I'll research historical elements first, then specific details as I write. But this can really slow down my forward momentum. If I know there's something in a previous chapter I've marked in red with XXX, it drives me absolutely nuts until I go back and fix it. It's a compulsion I'm trying to fix.

So I'm going with a new pattern, so to speak. I just edited a chapter tonight, and I have five - count 'em - five red-highlighted facts (or not quite facts) I need to look up. These are minor details really - the name of a country club, the name of a waste-treatment facility, a street, etc. It wouldn't take that long to find the answers, but since the writing was flowing tonight, it would have been just enough to kick me out of that forward progress and slow me down. Sometimes you have to get the research facts for a scene right before you write it (I love Google Earth for geography research), and sometimes you don't. With this first draft, I'm going to try to do as much non-research of simple facts as I can and see what happens.

Charlotte Dillon has a great website with a plethora of research links of all types if you're interested (I could spend a whole day here too, though I'll try to resist.)

Do you research before or during a book? And share your favorite (most used) research links with us. Inquiring minds (like mine, who might find something useful) want to know.



Blogger Michelle said...

I do write historicals, so it's a good thing I love research too ;). I do quite a lot of research before I write, and then as I come upon more specific things I need, I go searching for them. I find researching beforehand gives me a lot more plot ideas. I'd give you research links, but how interested in naval warfare in the early 19th century are you?

4:53 AM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Good post, E.

I do research before and during. I typically get my deep research from documentaries and/or trade/news magazine articles. Inevitably, I get into the plot and find myself going off in a direction I hadn't anticipated or in a way I hadn't anticipated and end up having to hunt down facts.

I, too, can waste...er, I mean invest a lot of time researching.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...


I always do my research on the second draft. I generally just pound the first draft out without worry about researching things, I don't even bother to mark them since I know they (and a lot more) will come up again on revisions.

It's during revisions that I start researching, and layering in all the details.

For me, there is something so freeing about ignoring the research and all those pesky little details and just letting my imaginations fly.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Elisa said...

I usually like to get my research done before I start writing. That way I can get the first draft written without any distractions. I tend to get caught up in research, and it kills my drive to write the book.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Actually, Michelle, I might considering I love historical facts that pertain to today. ;) I tend to include a lot of science in my books, and science is rooted in history, so one day I might be tracking you down for those research links after all.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

There are some facts I have to work on as I go, J. I just can't wing it because they're important to the plot. Sounds like that happens for you as well.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

I'm trying that, T. We'll see how it goes. ;)

9:16 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

I love research, Elisa. It could totally bog me down. :)

9:17 AM  
Blogger Edie said...

For my wip I spent weeks researching something, because I thought I needed it for a timeline. Really, I think now it was a form of procastination. Next time I'll try to keep my pre-writing research down. But it does give me a good feeling to know my facts are right.

6:40 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Edie, I think you're right. Research can sometimes be a form of procrastination for me as well. It's also fun. ;)

8:32 AM  
Blogger Liz Kreger said...

I enjoy research ... to a point. I write space operas for the most part, so I can make things up as I go. If its my universe, or my world, who's gonna tell me I'm wrong? LOL.

However, with a time-travelish book I wrote, I had to have my facts right. The research was fascinating, but I didn't let myself get bogged down in it. I pulled out the facts I needed, read a bit more to make sure said facts were right, and then moved on.

Great subject matter, Elisabeth

1:27 PM  

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