You’re cruising along with the muse flowing and visions of movie deals in your head…
Is that bag your heroine carries a purse, reticule or pocketbook? Should your hero wear a stetson, bowler or some other type of hat? And what was the name of Boston’s main thoroughfare in 1872?Even if your story is set in modern times, writing research questions can still intrude on a perfectly good writing session. What is the name of that cross-street? Do you have to pay to visit that monument? What type of car would your affluent and slightly natty hero drive?
Writers of fantasy and science fiction might seem to have it easy when it comes to writing research, but there are things to know. What is the name for a walkway at the top of a castle wall? How was siege warfare conducted? How far is earth from the planet Venus?
On and on it goes. Unresolved research questions have a way of piling up, so distracting they can drive your muse right on down the road. Stopping to answer every little question pushes you out of your writing groove, which hurts your productivity.
On the other hand, that time you went on for pages based on the wrong facts and had to rewrite wasn’t fun, and it cost a lot of time.
What’s a writer to do?
Managing Research While You Write
1. Bold or highlight areas in need of later review. This saves time during technical edits, the stage when you go through your manuscript making sure it aligns to fact. Marking areas to research as you write only takes a minute and frees your mind from the drag of accumulating questions.
Reserve this method for simple facts, like what type of shoes your heroine would wear, the name of an indigenous tree, or whether the evening meal should be called supper or dinner in your story setting.
2. When you come across a fact that may call for substantial changes to your story, stop writing and research before going on. This technique will save you in advance from having to rewrite due to plot holes, so it’s worth the disruption.
This method works for more complicated questions that could cause you to change the plot, like the ones, below.
- Did the War Between the States end before I have my hero enlisting?
- Would my heroine really study art at a college noted for technical programs when a stellar art college exists nearby?
- Could a captured king realistically expect mercy from his rival in my story’s era?
- Will Hailey’s Comet make an appearance in the correct year?
With this system for writing research , by the time you complete your manuscript, you should only have simple fact checking to do. The time savings will give you more time to land that movie deal.