I tend to do “just in time” research. I may do a little before I start a project, but usually I have an idea for a story and begin before I know too much background. When I hit a place that I need to actually know how flashbang grenades work, or whether a county has a coroner or a medical examiner, or if they had crenelated parapets in medieval Bitburg, I either mark it for later or look it up right then.
Many writers will tell you it’s better to mark the spot and research later, so as not to interrupt the flow of your writing. I mostly agree with this, but sometimes I just have to know–now! Sometimes that little bit of information will make a difference to what my hero decides to do. Sometimes I’m just easily distracted.
I love research. I can get lost in it. One entry leads to another. Sometimes it gives me ideas for the story that would never have occurred to me otherwise.
I hate research. On occasion I’ve looked in vain for that one piece of info that I wanted, while being distracted by other relatively useless (at the time) but shiny factoids. It feels like I’m working, but the hunt for information can become an excuse to avoid writing.
I love research. It keeps me from making a fool of myself in public. In fact I’m planning a trip to the local used bookstore this afternoon to get a used copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting or something similar. The heroine of Firstborn, my current WIP, spends the majority of the book pregnant, and since I haven’t any personal experience with pregnancy I need to know what’s she’s going through. There are a lot of readers out there who will know if I get it wrong. I don’t want a mistake to kick them out of the story, so doing a little research will help me give them a good read.
I hate research. Because I’m never sure if it’s enough. Should I read one book or three? Just the highlights or the whole thing? What if I miss something important?
At some point, though, you have to say, “Good enough is good enough,” so you can finish the story. I guarantee that after you get the book out the door, you’ll learn something you wish you’d known earlier .
Don’t fret. Just save it for next time.