December 4, 2010 by Renee
Research. It’s like a four letter word concealed in eight . Don’t let if fool you though, it is just as offensive and nasty as those others. In my world it is anyway.
When I began writing to publish, (because before I was writing to…?) I didn’t consider the amount of time that research sucked out of a writer’s life. If you say it sucks no time out of yours because you never have to do it, then I’m frightened to see your work. (and I hate you a little) Every writer has to research at some point. Setting, characters, psychology, dates, times, cars, and the list goes on–you have to get this stuff right. There are some things you can’t just make up. You might not think googling the year that the New Kids on the Block recorded Cover Girl is research, but it is. And why do you need to know that? Just asking. It’s a strange fact to include in a book.
But moving along, I also write articles. Those are nonfiction folks. The ones on writing I assumed would be simple. Write what I know. Not so much. I know tons, but still have to confirm that what I know and what the world knows are the same thing. Writer jargon, publishing industry news, etc. have to be right. Just as I term almost every mechanical item in my house “the thingie” I also term some writing methods, rules, etc. as thingies. You can’t do that in an article.
Book reviews and author spotlights also require a lot of digging. Sure, I interview them, but if I were to ask them every question I need answers to, they’d run for the hills. Authors, apparently, do not enjoy talking about themselves. I’m the minority. So I have to dig up facts, check websites, read book covers, find sources, in order to write about these people. This is the fun stuff.
The not so fun? This week I wrote articles about how to assemble a pool, install a tin ceiling, types of transmission mediums, and this morning I began an article about winches. No, not wenches, w-i-n-c-h-e-s; with an “I”. Good times. This is the research that makes my brain explode. But Mommy’s gotta keep her girls in food and clothes, right.
Earlier this week I shared a story I’d set aside because it felt like it was going nowhere. I didn’t know how to approach it. I had too many questions without answers and I’d already spent a month just researching a damn plane crash. Plus, the actual process of writing it felt stilted and weird, so I just set it aside. When I picked it up again I felt my earlier excitement about the story. I couldn’t wait to dig in. But then I encountered a problem I’d forgotten. The question of phone versus radio nearly sent me headlong into Crazy Town. Actually, I even pitched a tantrum over it. I do NOT have time to research this stuff, freelance, take care of my family, and write the damn novel. It’s going to take me years to finish this thing and when I do, it won’t be published because it will be 1000 damn pages. (insert crying, head banging and flying objects, dogs hiding here) But then, a calm voice from across the ocean somewhere said I was behaving very childishly. (not in those words, but that’s basically how I was behaving). The world righted itself, I looked again and said, “So I research. Again.” The answer is phone, by the way.
Research is not fun. It makes my brain hurt and sucks the creativity from my soul. It is not at all a pleasant experience for me and I hate it and I wish that I didn’t have to do it. The reality is, I have to. Not only in my daily “job” but as a writer of fiction, it is necessary. If I want to be taken seriously, if I want my work to be the best that it can be and because I don’t enjoy people laughing at me or asking why, how, when and who after I’ve written the story, it’s going to be there, waiting.
All I can say is thank you Google. You are my best friend sometimes. The library is also a handy thing to have.
The other reality is that every writer has something about the process that they hate. Outlining, dialogue, synopses, queries, editing, rewriting, writing…the list is endless and I have a few on mine. Queries? Another four letter word. What part of the writing process sets you to tantrums or crying jags? Come on, I know there’s at least one thing that triggers the crazy button in you.