Monday, May 2, 2016

Research Is Hard ...

I recently attended a writing conference and overheard an attendee complaining that she wanted to write a nonfiction book, but because research is hard, she didn't know if she really wanted to do it. (There was whining involved ... rather than "hard," it was more like "haaaaard.")

I apologize in advance for my strong feelings on this subject, but ... yeah. My feelings are strong ...

I began my career as a historical fiction author, and you know what, research is hard. It takes time and effort, but you know what else? It's rewarding. You learn so much, you become so enlightened, it makes you a more interesting person, it takes you out of your comfort zone ... I can't even explain how the things I learned by doing research have shaped me. I'd say I actually only used maybe 10% of what I researched in the final product, but everything else lent to setting and characterization and perhaps most importantly, to making me into the kind of author who could tell the story.

Nothing about writing is easy. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme or an overnight success venture. If you want to write, it will take work - that should be understood right off the bat. And if you want to write well, you're going to need to research. Even if you're writing contemporary and you're very familiar with your setting already, you'll need to stop and make sure that fact is correct, etc. You're not going to get out of this without doing some research, so it's best just to make peace with that fact.

I love researching, actually. I love learning all the little side tidbits and finding pictures of the people I'm looking up and seeing what the town looked like back then and learning why there was a land dispute. No, I'm not volunteering to do your research for you - I'm just saying, there's a lot to love about it.

Yes, research is hard. Writing is hard. Heck, life is hard. But everything worth doing is worth doing right, and research will help you accomplish that. Now go write something really good and make me proud. 


3 comments:

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I appreciate this post fir sure. It seems every book I write calls for research of one kind or another--usually historical, but for one contemporary fantasy, I interviewed a professional magician to find out what kind of tricks he would do at parties, what kind of training he had, what some of his props were, etc. And good things followed: He put together a trailer for my next book, a Sherlock Holmes mystery (which involved LOTS of research.) But, like you, I love research. Whenever a story occurs to me, I seem destined to go down unknown roads (unknown to me) and learn something.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I agree that research can be hard and that it's rewarding. Research can take you places in your story that you never imagined.

Canda said...

I think that's the part that surprises people--that authors have to do a lot of research for any book.