1. Holden
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    Holden Senior Member

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    How long do you spend researching?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Holden, Dec 9, 2010.

    The title is self-explanatory. When you have a pretty good idea of what you want to write in a story, do you sit down for days or weeks and learn about the subject? Or are you the type to go right ahead and get the words on the page, then fix up any errors within the story regarding real-world facts?
     
  2. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    I noticed you had no replies.

    I spend about two weeks researching a topic right before writing, and I google whatever I need while I'm writing.

    Please, look at my post "I'm not sure if this goes here." As of now, it has no replies.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    It depends on what I'm writing. I've been doing background research for a novel I'm thinking about for the future for a few years, now. It's a historical novel about another country. I'm undecided about going forward with it, but if I do, it will take a lot more research. The project I'm working on now is a futuristic novel (first one of those I've tried) that is also somewhat polemic, and I researched a number of topics before I started writing, maybe a few weeks or so. I've also, like R-e-n-n-a-t. taken several breaks to research various topics.

    My first novel was a family saga running from 1920 to about 1985, and I had a lot of background research to do before I started writing. It was period research for 1920 through 1960, a lot of research on the Marines in the late 1930s (some of which I did at the Marine Corps museum in Washington, DC on a few visits) as well as histories of four major battles in the Pacific in WW2, and a lot of material on the Holocaust and the US reaction to it. I continued reading on these topics as I was writing.

    My second novel, OTOH, was about a priest assigned to a poor parish in Brooklyn and required only a little research (most of it to flesh out one of the characters, who was a social worker. So, it varies.
     
  4. zilly
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    zilly Senior Member

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    I'd say that, in general, if I'm writing something that requires research, I spend the vast majority of my time working on that story in research.

    I've written a novel that didn't require really any research, but I've also started another novel and spent more hours than I care to think about on research already.

    I think that if you're writing something that needs research that it's really going to show if you did your work or not when the product is finished.
     
  5. The Tall Man
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    The Tall Man New Member

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    I think it just depends on what you are writing about. After I made my outline for the novel I'm currently writing I made a list of the things I needed to research for it. For instance, one part takes place on Bald Head Island, NC. I have never been there so I did research on Bald Head Island that included stuff like the size of the island, the architecture of the homes there, the weather, and stuff like that.
     
  6. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    I do a LOT of research. Possibly too much. I write a lot based around religion and, well, that's why I'm doing a minor in religious studies. Every lecture opens new avenues to explore for my characters. I won't use most of it, but I enjoy doing it. I like to know my setting as well as I know this world.

    I like to create the setting myself, however, as writers we all like little power trips, no? So I'll write something, then work out whether or not I've gotten my facts totally wrong. If I have, I'll adopt aspects of what I've researched, adapting it to fit my story, of course. If I haven't, great, all mine.

    I know I hate reading things where its clear the author has just cobbled a plot together without researching it. On the other hand, if something reads like a textbook, that's no fun either, and that's something I'm at risk of doing!
     
  7. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Too long.
    At some point you have to quit research and get down to the business of writing.
     
  8. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends. What I don't want to do is write some kind of University thesis.

    I've read books where the authors seem to 'show off' with what they've researched, and it can get too much if it's not relevant to the story.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm kind of lucky in that I have always been able to make my writing look like I know what I am talking about. A wide general knowledge helps. (never did me any favours knowing I could research and write an academic essay in a couple of hours and get well researched stuck on the bottom).

    So far even with historical stories have never spent more than a few hours researching a story. A quick google check is all that is needed to make sure I have the facts straight.

    Part of it comes from my speech training one of the disciplines is to be able to take a topic and within the 30 seconds it takes you to get to the podium make up a coherant speech of two minutes. The other is you have about half an hour no resources apart from pen and paper to create an 8 minute speech. You get used to constantly squirreling away useful quotes and bits of general knowledge for it. It also helps to concentrate the questions you need answered etc
     
  10. ellebell16
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    ellebell16 Member

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    I got the idea for my series in July. I did some research then, but I put it down only for it to be picked up a month ago. I've been doing research for a month, and I'm still not done.

    I think you need to do as much research as you need to write. I need to plot out each book in my series before I start the first one. I feel as though if you're writing a novel, it shouldn't take you that long, unless you're writing some modern day epic.
     
  11. phoenixsharpshooter
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    phoenixsharpshooter New Member

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    The rule I go by is this: know what you're writing about. Research no more or less than that.
     
  12. TokyoVigilante
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    TokyoVigilante Member

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    Research until you're comfortable writing about your topic.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as long as it takes to find what i need to know...

    only if that's what i need to do, in order to write whatever it is...

    i might do that sometimes, too...

    there should never be an either/or for such things... each piece of work defines its own needs and good writers are able to adapt to them...
     
  14. Sarah's Mom
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    Sarah's Mom Member

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    I think "it depends" is such a good answer. I started my b new project with some research to see if what I thought was factual was and readily available to me. It was and it got me started. Now, I am outlining, writing scene bits, discovering characters and - --- making notes about what I need to research.

    Sometimes when I am going well on a scene I'll include in red letter (find out if they made Dodge Darts in '65) and move on. Then I go back and find the red parts.
     
  15. MisteryWriter
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    MisteryWriter New Member

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    I usually do research for a few weeks or even days just so I make sure I know what I'm talking about. Only so much can be based on general knowledge and feelings the rest must of been researched I suppose.
    I find that If I try going straight into it, it goes off the rails a bit.
     
  16. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    The trick is to be constantly curious about everything - even that which doesn't especially interest you. Over time, you'll have a good, general knowledge about a broad range of topics. Then a quick refresher to confirm/expand this background information when you're writing.

    It's especially helpful to get people talking and then just listen to them. Even where they are not technically correct, it'll show you what people THINK the truth is.

    -Frank
     
  17. MetalRenard
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    MetalRenard Member

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    This is why fantasy is so great. You create the world your characters live in and all the research you do happens in your head.

    Having said that, I did research things like how swords were made in the middle ages and what clothing was like. I also researched military techniques from the Romans to today. Even if I won't use any directly, it still helps give me ideas and prevents my characters (or myself) from sounding stupid.

    Whether or not you should research before writing is another question. I personally like to write non stop, blocking out everything around me for hours on end (This is where heavy metal music comes in) then after I re-read it, research things I was unsure about and flesh out events, characters...
     
  18. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read three large books on Inca culture + lots of internet searches, for a scene that turned out to be only three pages long...

    I should stop doing as much research as I do, but in this one particular story, it's a lot of going back and forth between times and countries, and I while it doesn't have to be that accurate, I need to at least know what it was like there at that time.

    What makes it worth it is that a lot of the research inspires me.
     
  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Your last sentence says it all. Research isn't always just about getting the facts you need. It's about information that can support your writing now and in the future. There's nothing like the rush you get when you find exactly what you were looking for, and it yields far more than you had hoped.
     
  20. sereda008
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    sereda008 Senior Member

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    Spend as much time as you fell necessary. If you are writing about "Some unheard-of guy in new wonderland"" then there is almost no research you need to do, but if you attempt to mimic Dan Brown then you should probably live in the national library.
     

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