Monday, January 10, 2011

Buried in Research

Good Monday Morning my lovelies. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I won't bore you with the details of mine, oh wait, yes, I will.

I was buried under research. Piles and piles of it. Well it would have been piles if I were in the library. I have six new "favorites" on my tool bar. I believe this would be translated to 342 books. OR at least 342 pages from books.

I ran the gamut from Who's Who in the Regency to etymology (gosh, hope I spelled that word right). Did you know that the contractions for was not, should not, and would not, were not used until the 1830's? Well, I didn't. And that means I cannot use them in my books. But I can use bloody and bugger. (And let me tell you how much I lurve those words.)

Now most of you know I've been writing Regencies forever (at least 3 years now) and I have done research out the wa-zoo. I pretty much know all the major players and what's going on in the world view (in the early 1800's anyway). Problem is I had to change my timeline two weeks ago, I only moved it up 5 years but those 5 years were big. Lord Nelson's action at Trafalgar, the Princess's death, the King's madness, the Prince's Regency, and of course, the murder of Lord Percival Spencer. (Or was it Lord Spencer Percival...oh way too much research!)

Anyhow, I read and read and took notes until my eyes bled. Six hours on the internet Saturday morning. But on Sunday, I took it easy and watched the A&E version of Emma by Jane Austen. (Starring Kate Beckinsale -- *waves at Alex*). I watched it three times. (Should probably also mention I was sick as a dog and could not be anyplace else but bed so it was a good day.)

I love Austen for her quirky characters. I love Austen for her turn of phrase (found two new ones -- Depend upon it -- and -- I have done thus -- I love that word thus) I also love the way Austen changes Emma -- in the beginning Emma was a spoiled little rich girl with no apparent yearning to see people as people (instead of where they are in the class stucture). And at the end, Emma fully realizes her mistakes of the past and corrects them. Huzzah! No wonder she's the most oft quoted romance writer of the

Question -- When you research, do you just get what you need and get out? Or do you keep going even when you know you don't need all the extra information?

Have I posted this before? I'm still not 100% well so if I'm redundant, sorry. I hate being redundant.


Theresa Milstein said...

You are dedicated! I wish you luck with your research and writing your WIP.

I've definitely done extra, but not too much. I wind up reading much I don't use. Sometimes it feels like graduate school all over again.

Francine Howarth said...


History I love: full stop! Researching history inebitably leads to indepth rather than skim reading for relevant facts. In particular political/war issues need only be mentioned in passing to lend credence to timeline, but often intriguing sideline elements pop up and can add spice to what otherwise would be a rewrite/mention of well-known historical events.

Words: usage in period timelines can be catcher-outers, as can be seen in many novels where research was minimal. ;)


The Words Crafter said...

I'm sorry you've been under the weather. I love doing research and my problem is that I'll get what I need, see something else interesting and go there, they on and on....

Kate Beckinsale in Emma. My husband will totally watch that; she's his dream girl :)

Are you getting any of the snow or ice?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Just think how good your story will be because you were willing to do all that research!
And I get in and get out. Quick.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I, too, have done thus. (Couldn't resist.) Meaning that I've been keyboard deep in research myself with the ghosts and supernatural sites of the French Quarter. Slows down the writing but increases its quality, right? At least that's what I'm hoping.

Here's also hoping your daughter stays clear of whatever made you so ill. May you soon feel completely better. Roland

Bish Denham said...

Oh I LOVE research and can get thoroughly lost in it, always, always coming away with more than I will ever use.

Hope you're feeling better, but watching Emma is a certainly one very nice way to recover.

notesfromnadir said...

I have done thus! I like that phrase.

That's great that you love to do research because the more you learn, the better off you are when you go to a party & can impress others! :) The advantage you have is that if you can't use the research material in your current project, you can use it in a future project.

Tess said...

I have a love hate relationship with can consume so much time that I don't ever get to actual writing. It's good you're being thorough ,though and if no one has suggested to keep a file of those bookmarks, consider it. I was surprised when my editor asked for a bibliography for my historical novel and so, so happy I had one already put together to give her! Maybe you already know this...

have a great week!

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i typically just get in and get out. But then, it depends on what i'm researching.
Also, you know, i don't think i've ever seen Emma. Shame on me.

Priya Shankar said...

yay, I completely understand this post. I am in the midst of writing two publications about my work in India and while it might differ in form from a novel, it's very similar in some ways. I've spent hours and hours doing literature reviews and have so many interviews that I'm not sure if I'm willing to cut out of my paper. So I understand where you are coming from. Good luck!

Anne Gallagher said...

Theresa -- You hit the nail on the head -- GRADUATE SCHOOL! Well, I guess I would be if this were my MFA!

Francine -- Absolutely the catcher-outers and I don't want to be THAT author. And sometimes even the smallest of insignificant details can make or break a story.

Becky -- It just started snowing as I went to get another half gallon of milk. I'm assuming we'll be out of school for the rest of the week!

Alex -- WEll, I hope it's good. I'd hate to think I wasted all this time for nothing.

Roland -- Monster Baby had a cold but what I have is something entirely different and thus, not to be undured. Thank you for your thoughts.

Bish -- I didn't expect to like Kate in it but was quite enamoured of her at the end. She was quite young when she made this movie so there was no Hollywood Glam. Very nice little flick.

Lisa -- Yes, that is the key -- to not waste it and will thus, use it in my next two novels. And as to impressing people at a party ... I haven't been to a party in almost 24 years so I doubt I'll impress anyone other than the dogs. Monster Baby doesn't care.

Tess -- I did NOT know that, so thank you for that lovely little piece of info.

Sarah -- Oh, bad Sarah. It's a great flick. Okay maybe not as good as P&P or S&S but sweet nonetheless.

Anne Gallagher said...

Priya -- The hardest part about research thus far, is deciding what's important and what's not. I don't want to bore anyone with details that are inconsequential.

Anonymous said...

I do both. If I research but end up shooting blanks I still write as much as I can, then re-visit the text later and do more research. I try to be efficient, but sometimes it takes numerous rounds of research to complete a particular section. But in the end, its all good and I don'r sweat it.

Taryn Tyler said...

When I research I always want to know everything just in case in comes in handy after all. The only problem is I start getting ideas for new pieces as I discover interesting things and jot those down just in case I actually get around to it and the thing I'm actually suposed to be researching is neglected :(

I hope you feel better.

Anne R. Allen said...

I'm fighting a cold/flu virus too, and I'm impressed that you have been able to do something as productive as research.

I love research myself and can get endlessly lost in it. What I have to do is some general reading, then work on the book and only stop to research the details as I need them. Otherwise I'd be forever zooming around the Interwebz, lost in a maze of fascinating details.

Christine said...

I research in person and on the web. I love meeting people who work in the fields that I am writing about as well as reading about the places I set my stories.

Right now I am buried in snow :-)

Christi Goddard said...

I'm a ridiculous Austen nerd. I love to randomly speak proper Brit.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I often keep going and get lost in research. It's fun. Sometimes I even come up with new plot points, ideas, etc. By the way, I own 3 versions of Emma, and one of them is the Kate Beckinsale one. LOVE IT. :D

Jennifer Shirk said...

I don't need to do as much research as you do for my contemporaries so I'm definitely a "get in and get out" kind of person. :)
I love Jane Austen's characters too. They add such richness to her stories.

Andrew Rosenberg said...

I avoid research but it's unavoidable. No matter what my next project is, I have lots to do. Wikipedia is indispensable as a starting point but it also can be frustrating.
But the research I'm going to have to do most is reading similar genre books. Never discount that.

MB Dabney said...

Frankly, I try to do as little research as I can get away with. The stories I write are contemporary and so I feel fairly grounded. I try to write what I know and, since it is fiction, I make up everything else.

But when I do research something -- and everything I write requires some research. I don't know or remember everything -- I stick to the subject. Otherwise I get bogged down.

I majored in history in college and love researching old facts to gain new understanding of past events, and to see how they influence things today. So if I am researching something and get off track, I can get seriously off track. For me, too much research is another excuse for not finishing a writing project. And I already have enough excuses.

Jane Charles said...

Whenever I research it is always my intention to get what I need and get back to writing. It never happens. I'll read one thing that leads me to a new discovery, and that leads me onto something else, etc. I have to force myself away and get back to the task at hand or writing.

Anne Gallagher said...

Stephen -- Shooting blanks, that's funny. This is my 3rd or 4th round of 'serious' research. I keep needing more.

Taryn -- I do this too. I started looking for Spencer Percival and ended up with Sarah Siddons. TMI.

Anne -- I try and get in and out but it never happens. Like I said, 6 hours last Saturday. And even then I felt like I wanted more.

Christine -- I'd love to go back and meet the people of the Regency. Unfortunately we can't time travel yet. But someday I will get to London. That will be good enough.

Christi -- I didn't know that.

Michelle -- I actually did find a new twist on an old story so that was good for me this time. Problem is, the new story will need more research. Lol.

Jennifer -- Jane Austen is my heroine. I want to be her when I grow up.

Andrew -- I'm always reading. Even when I'm not, I am. There's always something to be found in a book.

Michael -- That's how I'm starting to feel. I'm over researching. And I'm starting to get stuck in the research rut.

Jane -- Thanks for coming by. My problem exactly. I start at A and to go to B but by the time I'm done I'm already down to T.

Tracy said...

Research is how I learn whether a story line is ultimately going to stick or not. If I hate the process of looking and reading more about a certain topic, than it's obviously not something I'm passionate about. I can say this, because I often spend HOURS researching things that spark my I know it can be done.

Anne Gallagher said...

Tracy -- I hear you. There's also the happy coincidence in research, that you may also find something you never thought you'd use.

VR Barkowski said...

I'm a research junkie. It's what I did when I worked in the real world, and it's an addiction I hope never to outgrow (but wish I could better control).

I love Jane Austen, her keen insight into the social realities of her time, her grand sense of humor, but primarily the strength of her heroines. Austen's women aren't constantly trying to prove they're better, stronger, or fly higher than men - an issue I have with a lot of contemporary fiction. Their strength is in being women, which I find absolutely enthralling.

MB Dabney said...

These are all good points. Thanks, everyone.

As with other aspects of writing, it's what works best for you. And no one can decide it for you.

But I also think one must always be cautious of anything that keeps you from writing, even something as good and as necessary as research.

Linda G. said...

I'm pretty good at getting in and out, but sometimes the trail is just too enticing and I get lost for hours. Research is fun!

Melissa Gill said...

Sorry I'm so far behind on my blog reading. I tend to find myself down the rabbit hole on research. I start out looking for information on burrying beatles and wind up looking at symbiotic insects of North America. (don't ask). What I need to know is, does anyone use the library for research at all anymore, or is it purely done on line? I feel like I'm kindof cheating or something.

Deniz Bevan said...

Oh Anne, I know how you feel! I generally start the story first - if I research too much too soon I worry that it'll affect the core story. But once I'm a month or so in, I start in with the research. Last night was one of those square-bracket-filling nights; I was all over research on 15th Century Spanish cooking, names of towns, fruits available in August at that time, the Julian calendar, etc. etc.
So fascinating, yet it never ends!

Elliot Grace said...

...dearest Anne, at this point, I'm betting you'd be a holy terror on Jeopardy!

"Alex, I'll take 'Life on the Pioneer' for $400, please!"

Something to consider:)

Have a great week,