“The problem with research, of course, was knowing when to stop. ‘One must stop before one has finished,’ she advised, ‘otherwise, one will never stop and never finish.’ ‘Research,’ she explained, ‘is endlessly seductive, but writing is hard work.’”
– Robert K. Massie, quoting Barbara Tuchman, in the forward to THE GUNS OF AUGUST
I’ve mentioned vaguely on twitter that I’m resurrecting an old project, and one of the things I’ve found is that, although I’ve done a lot of generalized worldbuilding research, I need to do some more specific research before I have anything like a well-drawn setting for this WIP. And so I’m gathering up the materials I already own, working up a list to borrow from the library, and generally trying to figure out what is missing that must be found before full-scale writing can commence.
It is so easy to get off track with research. I’m a believer that inspiration can be found in a multitude of places, but it’s a bad sign when I’m debating whether to spend time reading a book that sounds fascinating, but isn’t strictly useful for my WIP. I say this because I recently realized I had a couple of titles on my use-for-research list that weren’t exactly related to my project. Yes, I could probably find something useful in either of them, but it’s not a sure bet. So I moved them to a personal reading list instead.
Like getting lost in Wikipedia, it’s easy to become distracted while doing research. The desire to keep chasing after new bits of information can be “endlessly seductive”, after all. The key is to remain focused and regularly assess whether you’re using your research time in the most efficient, worthwhile manner possible. Save the unrelated books for recreational reading instead, even if it means waiting a little longer to get to them.