Thursday, 20 October 2011

On Research or Lack Thereof

I'm in a bit of a conundrum this week. In the lead up to NaNoWriMo I've set my sights on fleshing out my outline and character summaries. Part of doing this means that I am heavily in research mode. And I hate it! I normally write fantasy or paranormal so I'm usually less strict with myself about the amount of research I do. I mean hey, if Meyer can make sparkly vampires, I think I'm pretty safe to take creative liberties sometimes. 
     Unfortunately, Seeders is going to be a YA dystopian and I want to make it as plausible as possible.  There are some environmental themes in this one and some concepts that I need to get right or I'll end up looking like a fool. Plus one of my pet hates are books that just don't make any rational sense. For example, it really bugs me when books have a family with all different hair colours. Say the parents are blond and yet the kid has dark colouring. Gosh that really annoys me.
      It's just that research is so beyond boring. I didn't like it at school, absolutely hated it when I was at university and now I find that it's even more boring when all I really want to do is start writing. It's at times like these where I really wish they would speed up cloning. Then I'd have a minion who could do the research for me. Plus all the household chores so I could spend all my time reading. Until that happens I guess I better just bite the bullet and get to it.
     Do you guys have similar research woes? How much research do you do before you start to write? I'd love to know that I'm not the only one going mad.

*Okay I must be prophetic or something because an hour after I published this post the book about cloning that I won from Beth at Sweet Books 'n Stuff arrived. I really need to read it for research. How's that for the universe listening!


  1. Ugh! I hate research, and sometimes the author talks way too much about what they learned while researching so you have to be careful with's hard.

  2. I find it helpful to view research as mining for conflict. Every story needs conflict, and organic conflicts - difficulties and complications that arise from the time, place, culture, etc. - are the strongest and most interesting, in my (ever humble) opinion.

    So, while I'm researching, I'm on the lookout for things that could complicate my story...Model T's didn't get headlights until the mid-to-late 1920s? Then my scene with a character driving at night just got a LOT more interesting. Exhausting petroleum resources means man-made clothing fibers are rare/impossible to find? Then my dystopian teenager is going to have wardrobe challenges.

    I also try to ask myself questions specific to the story, so that I don't research aimlessly. What do my characters eat? Where does that food come from? What kinds of transportation are available? Where do they live, what is the climate? Essentially, weed out the areas that are different from your own life, and focus on those.

    I also collect images, maps, etc. while researching and create a digital inspiration board - it can help when writer's block strikes mid-Novemeber! :)

    Final J.K. Coi says she uses [placeholders] for worldbuilding details while she's writing her rough draft. [insert cool fact about dystopian energy plant here] then you can search for [] in the text later and fill in the specifics. I've been using that technique lately, and it keeps the writing mojo going...and also keeps me from getting sidetracked or start second-guessing myself.

    *whew* I wrote a book there, didn't I?! lol

  3. I'm sort of doing that now because I'm going to write a short story for NaNoWriMo, instead of a novel. I'm filling out questionnaries for my characters, and it's super hard! I have to know every little thing about them. It's good, because they will be more realistic that way, but it's a pain...

    Good luck with your research. I find doing actual research fun, like an adventure. Unless it's hard to find what I'm looking for, of course. Maybe think of it like a mystery, where you have to solve some puzzles, or clues in order to solve the entire large puzzle at the end. It could be more fun that way...

    One thing's for sure, you can always report back to us how your writing is coming along, and ask us for research help. I'm really good at doing it, so don't hesitate to ask.

  4. Ugh. I know the feeling... There are a couple of story ideas that I have in mind, but they will need LOTS of research to even begin plotting. The idea is there, but the background information is not. That's why I picked one of my easier ideas for NaNoWriMo. I'm already panicked enough as it is to write 50,000 words! Lol.

  5. I do occasional research. I remember doing it hardcore at one point in time with what buildings were made out of, and how people went about it, then never used it. After that I am sure to only do research when I know I need it. I end up getting too in to it. Then I write pages of notes on something silly, like climate changes, or plant life in certain climates. My google search records are pretty crazy.

    Beth ^_^

  6. Jenny: I know right? I hate it when there's big slabs of research dump as well. I just hope I can drop enough knowledge without it looking like a textbook.

    BJ: Some great advice. I really get stuck whenever I have to put in a bit of research and I find that I tend to just stop writing altogether. Will use your method of placeholders. The questions sound like a great idea as well. I've never thought to make my research so direct before. I'm very bad at this clearly!

    Cathy: I might take you up on your offer! Research is not my thing at all. I'm not very good at short stories because I tend to ramble but I'll look forward to reading yours :P

    Jessica: Ditto! I have a great steampunk story in my head but all the Victoria Era research makes me cringe. So I've just sort of left it.

    In other news: NaNoWriMo sent me an email to say that the new webpage is up but the buddy feature is still coming soon. Not soon enough I say.

  7. Beth: I did research like crazy for a little while as well and even though it was only documentary watching on a topic I was interested in, as soon as it turned into something I was researching for a book, I suddenly found it really tedious. Like I love old castles and things but when I was researching the stone structure and siege engines I felt like I was going to fall asleep any second.

  8. I did some research when I was writing this witch story with a friend, and I think that was a lot of fun for me because I find that kind of stuff interesting. Plus, I went and bought some spell/witchcraft books awhile back and never looked at them, but I had a reason to when we were trying to write that. It's crazy. Needless to say we never did anything with it after awhile, and it's still sitting in a notebook of mine.

  9. I love research :) It is more reading and learning for me, yay! The problem is remembering the information I had just learnt, lol. I am very good at collecting information but absorbing it is another issue.
    The frustrating part about research that I do find is when there is not much recorded on a particular subject I am researching (such as Ancient Samoan culture) so I really have to dig. Sometimes I get a good lead and I strike gold, but most time it is unproductive, especially when I easily get sidetracked.

  10. Ash: LOL. I have heaps of notes and a list of future books I need to read for research written down somewhere that I have forgotten.

    Elizabeth: I have the opposite problem. There is too much information on the topic of cloning and genetics these days. But you're right, I have a huge problem retaining all the info I gather as well. Plus I tend to put all the useful information into a word document and then forget to actually look it up whilst I am writing.

  11. Hey Lan. I write an outline before I write the novel itself, and so I do my research as I'm progressing through the outline, on an as-needed basis. Occasionally while I'm researching a topic I'll realize it's not right for what I want in my story, so I'll consider options and shift gears if something better pops up instead. Sometimes it's so boring I realize it'll bore my readers too, so out it goes. Additionally, I try not to stray too far outside my comfort zone; there's no point in doing in-depth research on nuclear physics, as an example, because I'd do an extremely poor job writing about it anyway!

    I'm like Elizabeth To'oa MacDonald; I usually forget much of what I've researched after the book is done. Which is embarrassing when people want to talk about it after they've read the book!

  12. Just think about how worth it it will be once you put in the work. Things are ALWAYS better when you really get down and dirty in your work.

    My only advice ( taken from my own school experiences) is to try to make it as cozy fun and relaxing as possible. Make small achievable goals, cozy up with comfy clothes, a warm drink and a nice work space, and when youve reached a goal, reward yourself - even if its a quick fresh air walk. Hope that helps!

  13. Michael: I worry about doing research as I go because I am not good at stopping writing once I started because I fear that I won't start again. But you do make a good point and if I put placeholders where my research should be then I can always go back on days when I don't feel like writing. Now that you mention it, going out of our comfort zone isn't a good idea at all. Especially if people want to talk about stuff afterwards. Argh!

    Alana: Good advice. I am def going to try and make the ordeal as enjoyable as possible.

  14. The research is not the hard part for me. it is the planning and outlining that kills me. And I am only talking about for school work stuff. And law school is all about outlining. Yuk!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting on my EVE review. The violence scenes were not overly graphic but there were more of them than I was expecting.

  15. Michelle: Planning and outlining are second on my list of things I don't like doing but it kind of gets me excited to write so it's not so bad. The research just feels really dry.

  16. I too am much like Elizabeth. I have trouble trying to retain the info I just finished spending half my day researching on. It's the one downfall of my owl like existence. I like to stay up late and research (I know weird isn't it). But come morning - I've forgotten most of it. Luckily for me the USB is my saving grace!. I always always always hit that save icon!. Hope the researching goes well Lan!

  17. Haha, I don't know if I'm an abnormality but I like doing research for school work! I always find out new info I'd never known before, plus it gives me an excuse for prolonged use of the computer LOL. But to organise and summarise the research into a cohesive, un-plagiarised that gives me a headache :(

    Thanks for coming by Lan! It's so nice to see your thoughtful comments, they always encourage me to post even more :)

  18. research is the worst. Despite having the flu last week (as you probbly saw on my last post) I couldnt check out on my hw for grad school, so I have to somehow focus on researching glass ceilings or something when all I wated to do was sleep. :(

  19. JoAn: Thanks! I am still trying to psyche myself up into full research mode.

    Felicia: You are a nut! Learning sucks. No. I don't really mean that. I'm just cranky from info overload.

    Sherre: Sorry to hear you've been sick. It's horrible to feel stressed when you're run down. Good to know I'm not the only one who thinks research bites.


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