THIS IS A VERY SUBJECTIVE POST. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
Today I want to talk about research when writing, because as I work on the new book, it’s something that I’m involved with on a daily basis. By the way I’m almost at 60,000 words with the book now, but I had to pause for a bit today to reevaluate some very crucial things.
Anyway, when I’m writing my novels…
I DON’T DO MUCH RESEARCH!
I was speaking to an author friend of mine a few weeks ago, and she asked me about research and I was like “Girl, aint nobody got time for that.” lol. It’s not all totally true though. It’s like this;
Before I start writing, I make sure that I know enough about the situations that my characters will be thrust into in order to accurately put the story down. Which means I have surface knowledge, but then when I start editing, then I need to know the details. So for example when I’m writing I’ll say,
“Her dress had embellishments on them.”
However when I’m editing, I need to know that the collar of the dress had pearls that matched the earrings on her ears, and that the bottom had stones that formed little daises all the way down to her feet.” You see what i’m sayin?…
I will not in a million years give a damn about these details when I’m writing my first draft because there are other important things in mind, especially since I type quite fast, and do not like to tolerate break in thoughts. I need to know why she’s putting on such a flashy dress in the first place, where she’s going to, whom she’s probably going to meet and get in a fight with, why she’s getting in a fight, and so on.
For example if I was writing a book with a Korean medieval setting. The setting first of all would be quite different from what any of us are used to so of course i would need to be quite familiar with that. For example their outfits are different, their way of life is different, the food they eat is different and so on and so forth. Now in this case, all the research I need I’ve unknowingly done in the last three years by gaining visual knowledge of these things. If you didn’t know I’m in love with/adore Korean culture so i’ve watched a lot of their dramas thus, I’m visually familiar with the setting.
However, I am not intellectually educated on their culture. I hope that makes sense. This will not stop me from writing a novel on them, however it will require me to spend extra time on editing but it will be easier in a way because I know exactly what what I’m looking for looks like. I hope that makes sense.
For example, I know that the women wear really short blouses and long flowing skirts, but I do not know what these are called. I don’t have to when I’m writing my first draft.
I know that the men wear robe like shirts or tops or…shirts, but I do not know what they’re called.
I know that they eat rice a lot, and soups but I do not have to know the specific names of what my characters eat when I’m writing even though there will be specific scenes when I mention what meals they’re having.
I do not know what the blankets they sleep on are called, or the heating system that keeps their floors warm during the winter (I do know this one, it’s called ondol, but hope you get my point), or the name of the town where the story currently takes place, (I just make something up as I’m writing) or dare I say, the final names of my characters- (I just give them random names that pop into my head.)
This works for me because I’m impatient. I need to know what the story is about, what turns the plot is going to take, and I NEED TO KNOW RIGHT NOW. Characters pop into my head out of nowhere in certain situations and if i stop to find out what their names are, I will forget the life changing statement they’re about to make.
The first draft is for me, the writer, and all I WANT TO KNOW IS WHAT HAPPENED!!!
My edited draft is for my readers and what they want is to be completely immersed in the world I have created. So although they do not want to be drowned in details, they do need enough information to feed their imaginations so that they become one with my world and see what I see. My impatience when writing is probably why editing is such a night mare for me because I have to start weeding, and that’s never an easy thing to do when you have so many plants already up.
So in conclusion, I advise you to drop the perfectionist ‘thing’ in you and get your story down! Know enough information to keep the story going but don’t drown yourself in research until you’re done because at the end of the day, your story is all about your characters. Research can every easily become procrastination in disguise, and that kills your enthusiasm for the story.
For example, imagine you’re writing a scene where your characters are about to kiss for the first time, but you have to pause to go search for what cologne your male lead is wearing because it made her sneeze the moment she brought her face close to his. That would be extremely annoying to me.
In my first draft I would say: “the strange scent of his cologne drifted into her nose and it made her sneeze.”
In my final draft I would say: “the scents of citrus… and of spices, woods and amber, tickled her nostrils- Versace’s Eros. She could recognize that cologne anywhere, because her ex-boyfriend used to wear it all the time… and she was allergic to it. Instantly she turned away, just as a sneeze tore through the back of her throat.”