Alright-y then, going off of the last post on preparation; I want to talk about research. I know research is a part of preparation, but it’s such an important, and big, part I thought I’d give it its due with a whole post about it.
So the meat of the argument, the question everyone asks, is: how much research is enough research/how much research should I be doing?
The quick and dirty answer to this question (and some budding writers out there will stop after this, which they shouldn’t) is: you do as much research as you feel you need to, and then you get on to writing.
That being said, if you consider yourself a writer, if you want to be a professional writer one day, you should do more research than looking up one website/article (wiki- or otherwise) before you sit down to write about something. As a general rule I go for two or three sources on a subject, but it will depend on what you are writing.
If, for instance, you’re writing a historical fiction story I wouldn’t say it’d be out of line to have at least six sources (two or three on the event itself and one for each of the major participants), and really if you had a dozen sources I wouldn’t say you’re out of line. I read an interview with a writer (and you’re going to hate me because I keep doing this) whose name I can’t remember (someone look it up and send me a comment: female author, book took place around/during the Chicago fire, came out late ’90’s or early 2000’s). Anyway, this author took ten years to write this book, most of that time being research. So there’s that.
I would even say if you’re writing an alternative history story you still need to research the event(s) you’re changing, because you need to know what happened if you’re going to change things. Plus, doing this may get you to think about outcomes/consequences you might not have thought of for your story.
For my Reiner Rotterdam story I looked up several sources (digital and print) about fairy creatures to make sure I had the legends right. As it turns out trolls (Reiner is a troll by the way) originally were just bigger humans that liked to live alone and it wasn’t really until the introduction of the fantasy genre that they took on monstrous features that have become common place in our collective imaginations. Learning this made me think about the story I wanted to tell again, and in a different way, and I think it came out much better because of it.
Let me bottom line it for you: you will have to do research about something for your stories. To be fair (more than fair really) in this glorious information age that we live in research has become exceedingly easy to do, and writers have less and less excuses for misinformed stories or completely wrong “facts” in their stories.
As a general rule (yes, another one) regarding research: If you don’t know, even if you’re unsure, about something look it up.
I hope this clears the air about research. And as always: think good things, writer good words.