1/26/07 — I was reminded again today of the importance of research in fiction writing, and the importance of sometimes putting it off.
Let me explain: First of all, I’m not talking about the kind of research I did so much of in school — for reports, or projects, or just because my teacher made me. What I’m talking about here is the kind of research that is specific to a certain scene, and can determine its success or failure.
The scene I worked on this morning sets the two main characters of STORM MOUNTAIN, Ben and Cat, high above timberline, making their way upward alongside a glacier. Ben is very nervous in this precipitous environment. (No wonder; both his and Cat’s dads died up there on a search and rescue mission.) To take his mind off what he and Cat are doing, Ben starts rattling on about the structure of glaciers, how they are formed, why they are now shrinking worldwide, etc. Although I’ve spent a good deal of time on glaciers and know quite a bit, I realized that I needed more. However, instead of stopping and doing the research right then and there (and in the process interrupting my writing), I put it off and, to remind myself, took a moment to switch to all capital letters and typed “RESEARCH NEEDED HERE”, then continued on with the action. So I was able to meet my daily writing goal — finish scene 10. When I start the second draft in a few weeks, I’ll do the research on glaciers, work it into Ben’s dialogue, and hopefully that will help me meet my bigger writing goal and scene 10 will ring more true.