Back writing again, with only a brief pause to jump onto the ‘net to look up skin diseases. I do a lot of research on the fly like that, especially with a novel like this where a lot of travel is involved. I think my wife wonders why I’m always buying road atlases, but one of them has to stay by my writing desk (and they have a tendency to migrate to the cars after a while… imagine that).
I have done more in-depth research for book purposes in the past, but it never seems to work out. For The Company Man I read an entire book about brewing beer for a subplot, and then ended up throwing the whole thing out. The only bit that remained from that learning experience was some of the odd beers mentioned as products within the book’s universe.
It’s much more efficient for me to do research in two ways. The first is Passive research, which is what I call the act of simply reading about things that interest me. There’s no telling what I learn that will become grist for the mill at a later date, or what factoid I pick up that will come in handy at an opportune moment later.
The second type is what I described above. Research on the fly. For example, the bit I was working on this evening turned into a discussion of skin disorders as two characters looked at a wound on a third. I knew what kind of thing I was looking for, but I had to see if words like psoriasis and eczema were proper for the occasion. I found out some interesting stuff, and for once I wasn’t distracted by my search (resulting in spending all of my writing time reading up on something that’s momentarily fascinating, but will ultimately do nothing for the plot of the book).
There’s a third type, what I call Dedicated research, which I don’t do. That’s the process of researching things specific to what you plan to do in your novel, i.e., reading up on the Civil War if you are doing a novel on General Grant. It’s the type of research most writers do, and as I illustrated with my example of the beer brewing book, it’s one reason I’ll probably never do a historical novel.
That’s okay, though. Facts can help, but there are times when it is much easier – and more fun – to simply make something up.
429 Pages (+7)
95511 Words (+1177)
NP – Pat Metheny, Secret Story