Friday, December 3, 2010

This better make me smarter

I made the grave mistake of doing a little "light" research on my current WIP yesterday. My creative writing class  wraps up next week and we owe a portfolio as our final assignment in the class. The portfolio will include, among other things, revised copies of the two pieces we workshopped. One of the major feedback items I received as part of this process was that people wanted to see more setting and time period descriptions to give them a better idea of the environment (so demanding). I've written previously about not meaning this to be a period piece, but I'm coming to the begrudging realization that this probably is a period piece, of sorts.

So yesterday, in my naivete, I thought, "Oh, I'll just look up a couple of things, how the city looked and how people dressed, no biggie."

BIG biggie. MAJOR EPIC biggie.

First things first, there were books out there about what I was writing on. Non-fiction, too, which is even better. Real facts. Things I can build off. Secondly, I had no idea what I was talking about. No idea. I was playing at amateur hour. I thought I had a cute, clever story (I still do), but there was SO MUCH MORE THERE that I would have seen if I'd bothered to ever look up anything. Ever.

Yes, I'm lazy.

My little research foray has now rocked my world. Fifteen books in my Amazon queue later and I'm already reconstructing the story. For the better, of course. And now that I have the missing piece, I realize I knew I was missing it the whole time. I've felt all along that I'm on the edge of something potentially wonderful, but I didn't have the tools to bring it to life. This is what I was missing all along. Context.

BUT now I have to do something with it. Like, read about it and synthesize that into something usable in my story. Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. All I have to say is all this research better make me smarter. Like maybe I'll actually learn (and remember) when the Civil War took place (THIS IS A JUDGEMENT FREE ZONE, PEOPLE).


Tere Kirkland said...

Yay for research!

Context is one of the things I strive for so much, that I do the bulk of my research before the story. I think it helps me ground what's happening in reality. And I get all kinds of inspiration from research. It helps to have some research experience, but frankly, I love the research phase of writing.

Good luck with the rewrites! I bet they'll be great.

Lola Sharp said...

I am lazy too...and procrastinate doing book/looking up research as if it smells like a street whore at the end of her shift. (though I do like taking field trips to SEE/DO things)

Partly, because some of the research is BORING and you have to search through lots of stuff to find the one little nugget of gold, which is also time consuming.

But, worse, if it's interesting, it takes on a life of its own. A girl could spend a year or more doing just research.

So, you'd think we lazy girls would stick to writing what we know...or at least something close, something we could fake or imagine.

Nah. Because we lazy girls are into heavy duty self torture. Lazy we may be, but we sure love to take the hard road, no?

Yeah, so my last 2 novels are on topics I KNOW NOTHING about...and have never felt any interest in. Yeah, but that's where the characters took me. (see, even my subconscious likes to torture me)

But, YAY for finding your context and having your world rocked and learning and stuff! :)

No judgement from me. Ever. I live in a glass house and I know it.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Ha ha. Now you have some real meat and potatoes to add to your story, though, and that's a good thing. Right? :-)

Solvang Sherrie said...


I love research, probably too much! But I couldn't tell you when the Civil War took place...


Lazy, let me introduce you to Uber Lazy: Me. This is why I stick to personal essays. If I have to do research on my own life, I'm a sad case, indeed.

Glad you had a breakthrough! Good luck!

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Good for you!!! You've found your stumbling block, now you can go in and layer your story with wonderful details. Enjoy the journey.

But I do know what you mean about all the work. I've been over-my-head with research on my current wip.