Michaeline: Help a Lady Out: Trip Checklist

Ueno may have changed a little bit since then . . . .

Ueno may have changed a little bit since then . . . .

In just two weeks, I’ll be on a plane heading for the great metropolis of Tokyo to meet my daughter. I’m very excited to see her after her 11-month sojourn in the wilds of America, but almost as exciting, I’ve taken a couple of extra days in Tokyo to do some research for my 2013 NaNo, A Little Affair in Greater Tokyo.

Justine and Kat have talked about their research trips on this blog – I think all of us Ladies enjoy travel, and appreciate what a shot of reality does for grounding a story. So, I’d like to offer my checklist for the trip. Take a look, and tell me how I can do it better.

TWO WEEKS BEFORE:
1. Re-read my draft and trace my characters’ journeys. Make special note of the physical places where the turning points and climax happen.
2. Get on the internet, print out maps and gather important information (like menus, opening times, closing times, etc.) for the places I want to go. Make reservations if necessary.
3. Look around for a good pair of walking shoes and break them in.

ONE WEEK BEFORE:
1. Write a detailed itinerary – where will I be each hour of the day? Have I included time to type up my notes? Is it realistic? Does it include some “fun” items that aren’t related to my book? (I’m a big believer in serendipity.)
2. Be sure I understand how I am getting from Point A to Point B to Point C. Will it be cheaper to buy a day pass, for example, or to buy tickets individually? I am very lucky that the transportation is great in Tokyo, and also that my muses threw up a story that doesn’t require a rental car! (Hooray for muses!)
3. Start collecting my trip stuff in a bag. Specifically for the writing research: extra battery for my computer, water bottle, bath salts for the post-walk recovery, pencil, pen, notebook, camera, battery for camera, check the SD card. Chargers for everything.

THE DAY BEFORE:
1. Double check my bags.
2. Hydrate properly, feed myself, get to bed at a decent time.
3. Re-read my story before bed for luck.

THE DAY
1. Take notes of dreams and morning impressions.
2. Get to the airport on time!

Anything else I should keep in mind? I’d also love to hear about your research trips, past, present or future, in the comments.

16 thoughts on “Michaeline: Help a Lady Out: Trip Checklist

  1. I’m terribly excited for you, Michaeline! My only advice would be to not overplan, to give yourself the freedom to explore a little bit so you can find NEW venues to put into your book or new ideas for things/places your characters can do/go. In fact, I’d plan that into your schedule…an afternoon of wandering. Even if it doesn’t help you much for your current WIP, it may be inspiration for the next one!

    • Thanks! That’s a very good idea — and I have about four days in Tokyo, while my characters are only in Tokyo for about 30 hours. So I think I will add some things. I’ve never, ever been to the Morning Fish Market — and since they are trying to relocate the unwieldy beast, this may be my last chance to go.

      What thing did you find most useful about your trip to the UK last fall? Was there something you packed that came in absolutely handy? (Or on the other hand, something you wished you’d left in the trash box before Security?)

      • Jilly. Haha! She was my tour guide and she was amazing. When my husband and I went to China, we hired a tour guide and she was worth every penny.

        I can’t think of any one thing that was useful except being flexible. That and making sure my phone was always charged! My phone doubled as my camera.

        • Thanks, Justine! I had great fun. I’d love to do it again sometime, maybe at a slightly less crazy pace 🙂 I learned a lot about London – now I think of highwaymen every time I set foot in Hyde Park!

  2. My advice, based on holidays as much as research trips, is a variant on Justine’s: don’t try to do everything or make your schedule so tight you don’t have room for spontaneity. Your story will gain richness from your impressions and feelings of the place, so give yourself time to explore and don’t worry if you don’t see everything on your list.

    Most of all … have a wonderful time!

  3. That makes three of us. Don’t overplan. Leave some time for wonder and wandering.

    I would also advise this (advice a very smart lady gave me recently): It’s your vacation. Make sure you do and see what is important to you. Don’t let anyone else usurp your “authority” or divert you from your agenda (particularly if there are things on it that are on your must see/do list).

    Have a fabulous trip, Michaeline.

  4. Thank you guys! This is great advice. I do tend to overdo things a little bit, although I’ve gotten better in my old age.

    I probably won’t be making any taxable money from my writing this year, but . . . do you have any tips for travel receipts? (I live in Japan, but I’m still a US citizen, and I’m guessing any writing money sold to US publishers would not be foreign-earned income, but that’s a tax discussion for a different blog, I think — I doubt many here fall in that category! But, maybe 90 percent of our readers can take a little off for taxes . . . .) I was thinking about stuffing all the receipts in my notebook, and if I actually earn money, dealing with things then.

    But I could also get a little dedicated notebook for writing expenses, and tape my receipts in there nicely . . . .

    • I wrote off my trip to London last year. Anything that got me there and paid for my stay/food/beverages/transporation while I was doing research (not the four days following where David and I went about London) counted, according to my accountant. So did books/maps I bought for research.

      You’ll have to get with a US accountant re: whether you can write it off. Also, there is something called the hobby-loss rule, which states that you can write off expenses so long as you have income in two (or three, I can’t remember) of the five years you spend writing (or doing whatever else you’re trying to do). The feds want to make sure you’re REALLY trying to earn a living/income in your chosen field; that’s where the income requirement comes from. That said, you can get around this rule, but it takes some special expertise and dogged determination. There’s great info about what you can/cannot write off on the RWA site (members only section).

  5. -If you have a smartphone, enter the addresses of the sites you want to see into it ahead of time in the maps app. That way when the time comes if you get turned around you can just push a button and get where you want to go.

    -Unless you are wearing indestructible, waterproof walking shoes you may want a second pair. I am a seriously light packer, but I always make an exception to the minimalist mindset for extra shoes. Nothing ruins a trip faster than having your only pair of comfortable shoes break a strap or become waterlogged and take two days to dry.

    -I have a very small leather pouch (2X3) into which I put pre-cut pieces of moleskin, bandaids, single use packets of antibiotic cream, 6 ibuprofen, 6 Sudafed, and 6 Benadryl (for allergic reactions. You’d be surprised.). I won’t leave the hotel room without it.

    -Make sure that the bag you are carrying around with you during the day is very comfortable and that the strap won’t bother you even after you’ve had it on all day. Probably stating the obvious, but you want one that’s hard to get into and hangs to your front so that strange hands aren’t in there when you’re on public transport. Try to carry as little as possible. Every extra ounce will feel like a pound by the time you’re headed back to your hotel room.

    Have a GREAT time!!!

    • Very good tips! My little emergency pouch includes lavender oil . . . bug repellant and itch deterrent and hotel freshner and bath enhancer (-:. Also, I always carry a handkerchief. And tissue. And in summer, a foldable fan.

      Totally agree about every extra ounce feeling like much, much more by the end of the day! I like to be prepared, but I also don’t want to feel like a pack mule rode hard and put up wet at the end of the day.

  6. Have a great time Michaeline – I think my only thoughts are on the same theme as the others. Just give yourself time to breathe the same air as your characters. Maybe take a few scenes and try to feel your way through them when you’re in the actual location – it it was me (and of course different things work for all of us), I’d be tempted to use this trip more for inspiration, rather than research, because you can get so many facts (as opposed to feelings) from the internet. Enjoy!

    • Oh, this is very true! I’d been to Tokyo last summer to see the kid off, so there were a lot of memories I drew on when I was writing the NaNo. And so much I forgot! Looking at the pictures we shot helped, and of course, the internet was an amazing resource. I know better now what kind of pictures I need to take — pictures of the street, little alcoves where a kiss can happen, the texture of the table at the restaurant and places where an argument can happen without attracting the attention of the police immediately (-:. And also, I need to take some video . . . there’s a lot in motion in Tokyo.

  7. All of you guys are so much more organized than I am! I’ve done only one real research trip, which was to Las Vegas. I’d already written a bunch of key stuff, and the trip was an afterthought. So I just needed to find out if my locations were possible, not whether they actually existed. It was very hard to find a ranch within a short distance of Las Vegas that had a naturally occurring water source, but I found one. Also a Vegas neighborhood that more or less matched my description. And then after that, it was finding a jewelry store that sold outrageously expensive costume jewelry. That was the easy one!

    • (-: To be perfectly honest, I wonder how much of this trip is research, and how much is just treating myself to some me-time. My youngest is 13, and since we have a three-generation family, she’ll be fine for a weekend without me. I can *never* take this kind of time off for me — I feel awfully guilty. But for the book? Yes, I’ll do it — but I have to be productive, or I’ll fall in the guilt trap.

      Guilt ain’t great for writing . . . . Cross your fingers for me that it’ll be inspirational!

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