Michaeline: Research vs. Writing, a NaNo Battle Royale

A man trying to escape a circle of files

I don’t feel like this, yet . . . . The hard part is figuring out when I’ve got enough research, and when I’ve boxed myself in with research. (Thanks to Wikimedia Commons)

I’m feeling a little like a NaNo failure this week. Last week, I didn’t make my word count, but at least I wrote every single day. This week, I didn’t make my word count, and only wrote three days. The plot for the next several scenes is in my head, but not on the page, and that feels like a failure to me.

I did research, though. I don’t think NaNo is really set up for historical novels, unless the writer already has a firm “historical world” built up in her or his head already. I’m finding it so difficult to write without a firm patch under my feet. The research really is necessary.

On the other hand, I spent all of October “researching” – rather directionless with only a vague idea as to location (New York, which is a very big city), and time (1880 to 1914 – which is a time of huge change). It’s only when I started writing that my research started forming that firm patch beneath my feet.

All I can say is thank goodness I’m writing in a time with lots of newspapers, pictures, photographs and people recording what went on – the exciting thing is that Edison’s wax records were available in 1899, and also, I can see short movies of people and places. The Girls in my Basement are having a great time, eating popcorn and eating up all the atmosphere.

The Editor in the Attic is t’ching at them. She wonders if there’s such a thing as too much research, and she’s looking at the wordcount numbers with a great deal of dismay and approbation.

Well, that’s what the Editor in the Attic is meant to do. But even she doesn’t feel like the poor man in the accompanying picture – so boxed in by information that she wants to escape. She just wants the Girls to take a break and put their fingers to the keyboard.

Maybe next week. I (and all the people in my attic, basement and in between) still have half of November.

How has your writing week gone? Be kind to the Girls and Boys in your basement, and give them a public shout-out here!

9 thoughts on “Michaeline: Research vs. Writing, a NaNo Battle Royale

  1. I have been on a bit of a NaNo break this week (I’ll share more in my post Monday). NaNo is definitely not for every kind of writing nor every step of writing the book. As a rebel, I’ve been working two projects: finishing up scenes for the contemporary women’s fiction WIP, and working on the novella turned novel turned novella (again!) historical romance which was supposed to be my McDaniel project, until the GitB protested.

    I did tons of research ions ago about everything from 19th-century schooners to title inheritance and abeyance, so I think I have most of the tools I need. However, I’m largely ignoring the research-y details and focusing on the characters/conflict for this draft.

    • Finishing up projects really are a whole new ball of wax.

      Even though I don’t think I can “win” NaNo with my historical, I’m still finding the NaNo spirit to be motivating. (-: And after complaining yesterday, I wrote out a whole lot of outline stuff, so at least I know where I’m going. Maybe even to the end of the second act!

      Still not sure how I can fit my snow queen (there was real blizzard in 1899 that was called the Snow King — my snowqueen is going to make a snarky comment about typical press, getting everything wrong as usual). And I noticed that EVERYONE is doing snow queens lately. There’s one in this Japanese drama I saw last night about a demon hunter teacher called Nube (pronounced New-bay) who is in love with the teacher (who almost married a black-toothed, eyeless demon!). Gosh, I wish my Japanese was better, or that we recorded the show.

      Anyway, snow queens are going to be the next zombies. And I say hooray to that, but I sure don’t want to write a half-assed, wedged-in snow queen.

  2. I’m thinking that research improves setting and informs character, and lots and lots of research can also hinder authors from getting to work. Usually a person doesn’t need a tenth of what they research, not that it isn’t helpful, anyway. Yesterday I finished reading a novel by a well-known novelist, and it was amazing how little research seemed to go into it. The caper plot assumed a lot of complicated events and details, which in the writing were solved with “When the lock clicked open,” and so on. I enjoyed it anyway, because it clipped along (hello, conflict, my old friend). But research? Not so much.

    • Yes, there’s a balance. I think Damon Knight said in his writing book that a lot of times writing block is about a lack of information. But yes, there’s too much research. For some reason, I was obsessed last week with my own ancestors. I’m starting to think that wasn’t such a bad idea — there were a lot of pictures involved, and you know, Bunny is a photographer. But it’s hard to tell what’s productive research, and what’s procrastinating research.

  3. My writing week was okay. I think. I know there’s something I need to fix at the beginning of my WIP, and I kind-of-sort-of know what it needs. I listed out the pros and cons, figured out a new scene, and spent two days trying to write it. On Day 3 I realised it sucked because it was the wrong scene. So I started on the one I should have written to begin with, but I’ve been avoiding. I had reasons. I’m hoping to finish that one tomorrow. I like it now, and I think it’s a big improvement. I’ll be asking you Ladies for your comments fairly soon 😉

    • O, yes. Reasons. I think we gotta listen to the reasons. The Editor in the Attic thinks they are all bad, lazy ones, but the Editor is not omniscient. And I don’t know about your Editor, but mine is not always very kind about human stuff like family obligations. That’s when my good ol’ me needs to step in and stop the in-fighting between Attic and Basement.

      Looking forward to your book! (But please . . . take 13 days or so! LOL, I’m so selfish.)

  4. Pingback: Jilly: Man-Caves & Brainwaves | Eight Ladies Writing

  5. I didn’t do any writing this past week, but I did do a boatload of editing. I’ve just gotten my first 4 (or is it 5?) chapters — first 50 pages, anyway — in pretty good order, which is what I’ll need for the Golden Heart.

    My task this coming week is to plow ahead. I have several scenes I need to write. I know what they are and what needs to be in them. It’s an opportunity for me to show the attraction yet conflict between Nate and Susannah and I’m looking forward to writing them.

    As for research, given that this is a Regency, I’ve done a lot. Some of it rather ad hoc (which ironically helped my plot in major ways), the rest very deliberate and purposeful. I’ve gotten much better about leaving the little details for the end (just put in blank lines or highlight a note that says “figure out what she wears”); I find the search for a small nugget of information takes me down a rat-hole detour that I simply cannot afford at this point in time.

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