Research Kinda Sucks

I’m finding that I can spend whole days doing research for Set Me Free, which is good because my opinions have to be solidly grounded on facts. It can be frustrating, though, because by the time I’ve tracked down and read as much as I can manage for the day, I’m so tired that it’s hard to do any real writing.

It’s frustrating in other ways, too. I have to budget for books, and when a book that I really really would like to buy is outrageously priced, it’s hard to just put it out of my mind and tell myself that there’s plenty of other material and it won’t really be missed. And then there are the leads that don’t pan out, the people I’d like to know more about but can’t find much information, the fascinating side tracks that I’m tempted to follow . . .

On the good side, it’s helping me learn self-discipline (a little), particularly when I find myself writing something that doesn’t belong in the book. Time to copy and paste to another folder. For this organizationally impaired person, finding ways to keep track of the important material and to organize it into chapters is pretty overwhelming, but I’m getting there.

Google is a godsend, no matter what negativity people come up with about it. A lot of the material I’m looking for is years old, and it’s amazing to be able to drill way down into Google’s search pages and finally come up with a gem. It doesn’t always happen, but it isn’t Google’s fault. Links break, sites disappear. Newspapers are particularly bad about keeping usable archives. One newspaper had a lot of good articles about Bill Poyck’s execution, so I copied the URLs until I could get around to them. Alas, it turned out that after some length of time (about a month or so), only the lead paragraphs were available unless you subscribed. At least it taught me to copy articles immediately if they’re from sites I’m not familiar with. Sites like the NY Times only allow you ten articles a month unless you register, and it’s easy enough to run out pretty quickly. Okay, save that link for next month.

The internet, overall, is a godsend for anyone who doesn’t live anywhere near a high quality library. There are limits to how much you can do, certainly, but nothing like the old days, when I lived out in the boonies of a rural southern town.

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6 thoughts on “Research Kinda Sucks

  1. Research eats hours (as does Google). Self-discipline does seem to be key. At some point, you just have to stop reading and start writing. 🙂

  2. Have you tried writing your 1st draft material for one hour a day BEFORE you start researching? This will only work, of course, if you’re a morning writer. Good luck. Though the internet is extremely useful for research, I believe it’s also very tiring.

    1. Ha ha. I’m definitely not a morning person. I spend mornings surfing through all my news sites while I try to wake up. And I also work the opposite way most people do. (I think so, anyway.) Reading gets my mind going, so I don’t really get in the writing groove until I’ve done some relevant reading. Afternoons are usually my writing window. If I let it go too late, I’m tired (yes, research does take it out of me) and my eyes are giving out.

  3. Well put. I wish more writers would spend more time devoted to research. My husband and I sent over a year researching our novel On the Way to America (set in 1909) in order that is come off with as much credence as possible. Via the Internet, we contact maritime museums and historical societies, both of which were eager to help in exchange for a mention in the “thanks to” section, providing ships manifests and logs, article and pamphlets. Such were the tools that enabled us to paint a more full and colorful picture of the past for ourselves, let alone our readers. That is the first result of research, to clarify the writer’s vision. Keep it up and good luck to you.

    1. Thank you. I’m not really big on research and I’m lucky that my fiction doesn’t require much more than material I’ve already gathered out of interest in the various topics. I know I wouldn’t have the courage to write historical fiction. This is really the first time I’ve conducted intensive research for a book. I’m not always sure whether it clarifies my vision, but it certainly does expand it.

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