Thought I’d just give you a (not-too-scary) glimpse into my favorite research technique these days. And not just favorite because it involves a comfy couch and books. Remember, this is the research I’m doing to help figure out my characters, what they want (which means figuring out what is possible, probable, and/or dream-worthy in 1911), and what they might usefully do to further my plot. This is not the research for filling in details about how many hospital beds were in a ward or what kind of fruit you could buy at a market. That stuff I’ll find out while I’m writing. This is instead the research I really feel like I have to do before I dig deeply into the 2nd draft.
Step 1. Pick a topic, based either on character-development, setting for a scene, or a virtual dart toss, because I could pick any one of a dozen paths to follow.
Step 2. Start to browse the web for articles and books.
Step 3. Realize I probably HAVE some of that information already in my research stacks.
Step 4. Gather a small pile of books & take them away from the computer. Take myself away from the computer, too.
Step 5. Curl up on the couch with the books and my Blackberry. Yes, my Blackberry. This is important. The cat is also welcome.
Step 6. Start reading.
Step 7. Gather data and details, while waiting for burst of inspiration for the story.
Step 8. Repeat Steps 6 & 7. Perhaps ad nauseam.
Step 9. Get an idea.
Step 10. Gasp with excitement.
Step 11. Email it to myself via my Blackberry. (Told you it was important. This system actually keeps me doing research, without losing my place in the book, while the ideas simmer away and grow, hence creating more emails to my self via my…okay, you got it. So it is not just laziness.)
Step 12. When the BIG lightbulb in the sky blazes with THE idea and enough emails have been sent, I drop the books (being careful to not, of course, drop my Blackberry with them) and run to the computer. Or skip. Or dance. Depending on how bright that lightbulb really is.
(Artistic interpretation by my son.)
Step 13. Open Scrivener and start putting all those emails into character and scene notes.
Step 14. Rinse and repeat.
Step 15. Get closer and closer to shoving all character and plot and research into a paper bag and just start writing.