R is for Research

I did a blog for K about Knowledge and you might be tempted to think this is more of the same but, to my mind anyway, research is what you do when you don’t know the answer already. Knowledge is knowledge. You either know it or you don’t. And the only way to know it…is through research.

You do a lot of research when writing a book. More than you might imagine. And I’m not talking the type of research where you sit down with a bunch of resources, cram for a weekend then write a report on it.

Research for writing is very different. And it can hit you at unexpected moments. For example, last summer I was typing merrily along on One Small Touch when suddenly a car exploded. In my story, not real life.

I didn’t know this was going to happen. But there it was, in black in white, so I had to deal with the aftermath.

Writing came to a screeching halt as I found myself researching broken bones (since I’d been fortunate to never have had one…and neither had anyone in my immediate family). How long would recovery be if X was the type of breakage? How long would the hospital stay be? Would surgery have been required?

A very dear friend, who also happens to be a doctor (albeit a urologist), got some very strange messages from me. I did a lot of Googling. I asked a nurse or two. And finally I had the answers I needed and was able to move on again. I’d done the research I’d needed.

Later on, my bandaged and damaged hero was caught by a couple ruffians (yes, I’m being a bit blase with my descriptors here…bear with me) and his broken arm was not treated with care and gentleness.

Again, I hadn’t anticipated this happening and so back to my doctor friend and Google I went. What further damage could I expect from this scene? Would he be back in the hospital? Would more surgery be required?

You probably can tell from this I’m a bit of what they call a pantser. Meaning I write by the seat of my pants. I don’t really have more than a general idea of where my story is going. I’ve tried outlining and all that…it doesn’t really work for me. My work comes out flat and uninteresting and I lose interest in finishing the story.

Even if I had done an outline, I’d still have had to do the same research. The only difference is I’d have done it while making the outline instead of in the midst of writing the story.

When do you research and are you a pantser or an outliner?