Disappearing into a pile of books

Study by Judit Klein (CC)

It’s been a while since I’ve gone to the library to check out reference books, but I’m back in research mode. Maybe I’m doing it backwards, but this time I’m actually enjoying it. You see, I wrote a historical fantasy, and now I’m doing more detailed research between drafts.

Oddly, its been working better for me this way. Before writing the book, my research consisted of blindly cramming all sorts of info into my head, most of which didn’t matter to the story. This time, I know where my world building needs extra detail, and I can see what I got wrong. This time I know the context of the story, and can make better choices about which facts are more important.

And it’s been a pleasure. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed book studying, scrawling notes onto paper with my horrible handwriting. Lurking in the library. There’s a real pleasure in the tactile. I think I do focus better when I’m not reading on a screen. Manually organizing information. Learning things about the world and real people in it.

There’s still a bunch of research I’ve yet to do, but I’m game this time around.

Have you been surprised by your writing process recently?


  1. I’ve always avoided research, which is odd, perhaps, because my mother is an art historian. She would approve of your devotion to libraries and book research (she and my father met when working in a library).

    It wasn’t really a surprise, but my current writing project is somewhat of a throwback to my earlier work. With the last two projects — the mystery stories and Stevie One — I was working on being at least somewhat concise. Now, I’m back to a more relaxed pace, which is a nice change. This may still end up being short (you know, relatively), but I’m letting it breathe more. That’s a nice change.

  2. As the saying goes, I’m inhaling — finishing some reading I started months ago, getting around to some critiques I put off to long, and submitting. I had a very productive summer, though, having finished some painful novel surgery. I hope your research pays off!

  3. I love that approach to research. I remember Anne Bishop talking about reading as much as possible, never knowing what she’d need in her head for the next story, and then back-filling. I definitely set up a plot-grid of knowledge. Right now I’m hoping to tour a police station or two in order to get a feel for the major setting of my screenplay, though who knows if they’ll even let me in there! Especially after I tell them it’s Horror.

  4. That’s a cool approach to the problem of research. It makes perfect sense given what I already know about your writing process.

    Pleasant surprises for myself? Learning about (and more importantly how to use effectively) Evernote. Still learning it, but it’s enabling me to keep better track of ideas. I fear it may replace my physical notebook. (Which would be sad; I like the tactile experience of handling a physical artifact of my ideas.) It’s the portability and searchability that’s key. I had a couple recent ideas that may someday blossom into something interesting. Instead of putting them in my physical notebook, I put them in Evernote, and now I feel like the ideas won’t get lost. We’ll see what long-term use allows. (I also hope to check out how effective/useful their OCR is for documenting handwritten notes I’ve already made.)

    1. Being able to search your notes quickly is so handy! As much as I love notebooks, sometimes its hard to find specific bits of info. Often times I throw them out because I’m so disorganized.

    2. I thought I’d update since I had a chance to try the OCR on my handwritten notes: It performed about as expected. Which is to say, my handwriting is pretty much indecipherable by any other than myself, and that includes by OCR.

      I’d had hopes, because then I could easily upload all my old handwritten notes. But that’ll be a no-go.

      1. I suspect it would work very well for type-written hard-copy documents. It’s handwriting that gets too wonky, I think. But yes… Maybe one day the tech will be much better! It stands to reason that if a human mind can figure out what symbol means what that we can eventually figure out how to code a computer to do the same… Maybe we need Watson on that!

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