Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The intermission

The intermission is when the ideas pop and spill and you scoop them out into paperbags for people. Or maybe they flow into cups. My point is your brain is full of them and if you don't put them in something, they'll get all over the floor and make a mess.

I bring you more than an observation today, but another discussion point. Research. When do you do it? All of it ahead of time in a painstaking fashion? Enough to get you started and then more as you need it to flesh out the details? Or write the whole draft and try to put the details in later?

Currently I am treating "research" as a means to put off starting something. Oh, I can't... I need to do some research. I'm aware that's what I'm doing, and it's all right for the moment as I'm supposed to be reading something for a friend.

Which isn't to say don't research. I probably do a great deal more than I'm aware of, as I tend to seek out information as I need it rather than in one big pile. Amassing research before I start is sort of counterproductive, because—and yes, I realize how this is going to sound—the facts get in the way of the story. I trust when I go to history or whatever, that I will find what I need. I can paint those details in. The feel of something—its atmosphere—is sometimes better at creating a scene than paragraphs of highly detailed dry factoids.

The challenge is to combine the two without overwhelming the reader or burying the story.

2 comments:

Leigh said...

Like you, I sometimes use "research" as an excuse not to begin writing but that just means the book isn't ready to be written yet. I will do a lot of character research first, get some setting info and then fill in other details (those that won't take days and days of research) as I go. Some things I know are wrong but I'll leave them til the draft is finished and go back. So long as they won't drastically change the story. Right now I'm in "notetaking" phase...that time when I'm gathering ideas before I commit them to paper, dreaming up a storyline, and more importantly getting the voice. That is THE hardest thing to do.

Chandra Rooney said...

I'm in the same stage. All these shiny ideas... how do they fit together into some kind of coherent plot? I have an idea of the tone of the voice, but not the voice itself yet.

But I remember what you said about trusting myself and the story, so I'm trying not to over think things.