Monday, November 21

Research? Must I?

Uhm…research…one of those things you love or hate. Since I am a moderate in nearly all things, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I straddle that love-hate fence on this subject, too.

I tend to give the heroes of my stories livelihoods I don’t know the first thing about. No, this isn’t very bright—I didn’t say I was, did I?—and this does create the necessity for research. I do this with minimal grumbling. Thank goodness for the internet. And for Google. You can find anything on there, and every site you visit is…different from the last. When this happens, I go for the best two out of three and hope very hard I don’t make any glaring errors. I give it the time it needs whenever I have to know something and I search until I find the right answer at least twice. I sigh a lot and maybe grumble a little more than minimally.
That’s the hate part.

But once upon a time I wrote a historical romance, Home to Singing Trees, that took place right here in the county where I’ve lived my entire life. I went to the library, which isn’t a hardship—I go there nearly every week. With me, I had a couple of pens, a coil-bound notebook (I don’t do those little cards, even though I like the idea of them), reading glasses, and change for the copy machine. I also allowed a couple of hours. Sigh. Grumble. Maybe whine just a wee bit.

At some point, my stomach grumbled loudly enough to wake all those dead people in the genealogy section I was perusing, so I gathered up my paraphernalia and departed for McDonald’s, visions of Big Macs dancing in my head…oh, sorry, I do have this focus problem, plus I’m hungry and forever on a diet, and Christmas is coming. Ahem. Anyway, I had lunch. And went back to the library. The only problem with researching Singing Trees was that at some point I had to stop looking things up and reading and saying, “Imagine that,” to anyone who would listen. I had to actually write. Sigh. Grumble. Mutter unintelligibly.

That’s the love part. I love learning stuff I didn’t know. I love paper and pen and the sounds, smells, and feel of libraries. Librarians are fun people who help you with whatever you need and if you’re getting silly because you’re tired (and hungry again) they can snort laughter through their noses with the best of them. When you combine history with libraries and librarians, it is the stuff this writer’s dreams are made of.

So there you are. I absolutely hate research. But thank goodness I love it even more.


  1. Research is a must if you want to be 'just a little bit sidetracked and distracted'! But on the realistic side I can't imagine any writer who doesn't have to research at some time or other...even if it's just the tiniest fact. There's always someone 'out there' nowadays who will pick up on it if you DON'T do your homework...:-(

  2. Isn't that the truth! Thanks for stopping by, Nancy.

  3. I do extensive research, because I write romantic suspense and am not cop or FBI agent. Realism is important to me so along with online research and the library, I sent a letter to the FBI with a list of questions. How's that for being inexperienced! But to my surprise, an agent called me to answer all my questions.

    I've since learned that most people are happy to help me get my facts straight.

  4. You know how I feel about this subject! I hate research. I do like to learn new things. My aversion to research is that I get lost in it. Much like you describe. I'll allot say an hour to look something up, and six hours later, I'm still reading facts.

  5. I write contemporary, so little research is needed, unless my characters throw me a curve ball and oh, say they're being sexually harassed or received notice of an impromptu visit by the health inspector...thankfully I have a few lawyer friends to call on and my BFF knows if she sees my number on her Caller ID to expect a 'stretch your memory' greeting!

  6. Hats off to historical authors and all the research they have to do. I had to research bat bites and Huntington's disease for my last book (a contemporary medical romance) and that's about as much as I can handle per book. The thought of writing historicals is mind boggling.
    funny story about the gurgling stomach at the research library.

  7. I love research, especially the location where my book takes place. Be it online research for a road trip, I research for accuracy in my books. Maybe some day I can actually deduct a road trip expense on my tax return. LOL

  8. Great analogy, Liz! Research is a necessary evil, I think...