More Research: AKA Resisting the Rush

Last night, I took down books down from my shelf to do a bit more research. I’m starting to move into the less general research stage and focusing on specific details I need to create Caro’s world–her world, within that of 1912 Chicago.

Yes, more research.

As I looked at TOCs for the information I wanted, some of “those voices” started playing in my head. You know the ones–those that tell you you’re doing this wrong. Specifically, in terms of research, they tell me I’m wasting time, that I can add these details later, that I’m only on the second draft & I still need to get the story down, the characters talking to me more, that this book is taking long enough to write & I’m just adding hours on hours to the journey. On top of that is, of course, my own tug to just get writing.

I took a breath and told those voices to shush.

Who knows? Maybe they’re actually right. Maybe everything they’re telling me is the truth–that I would be “better off” pushing the research further along the timeline. Maybe I am writing too slowly. Maybe I should get the story and characters solid and then add history and setting.

I can only know one thing for sure and that is that, right now, the voices are wrong. Yes, I want to write. Yes, I want to get back to Caro and Chicago and her huge choices. When I take a close look at how it feels to be writing ahead without the layers of what a city street looked like in 1912, what daily chores she had to face, what her mother is doing while Caro is sneaking out of the house–what she’s doing that lets Caro sneak out of the house–I get a bad taste in my mouth and a sourness in my stomach. It’s not going to make me happy.

I did this on the first draft. I think it was necessary, and I think it paid off–I ended up with some big revelations about the story that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t pushed past all the history details. And, yes, it might very well pay off again. But I hated it. No, I didn’t hate all the writing, but I hated the feeling of skimming over the top of Caro’s world, of missing the layers that–to me–create a picture in my mind as I put words down. A picture that has images, tastes, smells, physical sensations, feelings.A picture that lets me connect more tightly with what Caro is experiencing, immerse myself more in her point of view, and lose myself.

One of the things I think many of us have to remind ourselves about, is that we’d better like what we’re doing with this writing thing. Even if/when it starts paying, it’s not going to pay big. (Checks skies for fairy godmother and her Turn-Me-Into-JK-Rowling wand…nope!) Hopefully, eventually, people will buy and read our books. Hopefully, what we’ve written will touch someone’s heart, maybe even a few hearts. But if you add up the minutes of our lives, most of this journey to a book is taken up with the actual process of writing. And if we’re unhappy while we’re doing it…well, for me, that defeats a bit part of the purpose.

So, yes, I told those voices to shush. And I found the perfect chapter, one with detail after detail that let me see Caro moving around in the scene I want to write, one that told me specifically what she is bored with, what she’s pushing away, what her conflict with her mother is about.  I spent more time looking at images and google maps of Chicago, reminding myself that–oh, yeah, the buildings all touch, and they’re narrow at the front but really deep, and brick comes in different colors. This morning, I’m going to dig a little further into some stuff I touched on last night.

And then? And then I’ll write.

It’s a process. It’s my process. It might only work for a day, a week,  three months. For now, though, it leaves a sweet taste in my mouth and lightens my mood. And I’m sticking with it until that changes.

When do you have to tell your voices “shush?” What’s a part of your process that you have to follow–at least for now?

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4 thoughts on “More Research: AKA Resisting the Rush

  1. As we’ve talked about before, I’m currently shushing the voice that’s telling me my WIP should be written by another kind of writer. It’s way out of my comfort zone in a voice I’ve never used. But I refuse to quit. This book will get written, even if the only eyes that ever see it are mine.

    Good luck to you, and have fun digging into those details and adding those layers.

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    • beckylevine says:

      I think maybe when we pick projects like this, that’s when we have to/get to grow as writers and become the ones to write these stories. I hope! Keep going!

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  2. Loved this post, Becky. Can’t hardly say why since I’m not even writing right now being caught up for the last 2 months with teaching. I guess I just loved the fact that you listened to your gut. Lots of this writing is new to me- and lots of times I wish I had a map which said, “now you go here, now you go there.” Without that, I guess we all just have to listen to our guts. At least that’s what my good friend Joyce says.

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    • beckylevine says:

      The problem with the maps, I think, is that they’re always drawn for someone who ISN’T us. We have to make our own map, and it changes with everything we do. Luckily, they seem to come with erasable ink. 🙂

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