Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing Process: The Importance of Research

Any good writer knows - and almost any writing class will tell you - that 4/5 of writing is actually research. It's not just a matter of "write what you know" - sooner or later, you're going to hit a point where you need to write about things you don't know. When that happens, there's only one thing to do: learn.

Well, okay, I guess technically there is another possibility. I mean, you can always push boldly onward, making up facts and faking the details. That's a viable approach, I guess, if you don't mind the fact that pretty much anything you write that way is going to suck. Mightily. But let's face it: if you don't care about the quality of your writing, you probably aren't bothering to read anyone else's thoughts on the writing process, including mine. So I can safely ignore you as a potential reading audience, can't I?

Right, then. Moving on... Research. Yes. Lots and lots of research. In fact, I occasionally suspect that this part of the writing process is expressly designed to prevent you from spending any of your time actually writing. For example... well, let's take a look at my current project.

In theory, I've been working on this project for a couple of months. (That's a vast improvement over the rest of my projects; some of those have been percolating for over a decade.) In the course of that couple of months, I have written just over a page of story - which I'm probably going to scrap, but let's save that for a different rant about the writing process. Meanwhile, in an effort not to sound like a complete idiot when I start writing about the east coast and post-apocalyptic life at sea, I have learned the following:
  1. I could purchase a nice, used sailing yacht for around $80,000. That's assuming, of course, that I could scrape together $80,000 - and that my beautiful wife wouldn't murder me in my sleep for trying something like that.
  2. It's entirely possible to raise chickens in the back yard, local ordinances permitting, which means that given the right sort of boat and a reasonable logistic situation, it can probably be done on a boat as well.
  3. I have no desire to raise chickens... anywhere... ever.
  4. Dehydration is a very, very nasty thing.
  5. Buxton, North Carolina looks like a nice place. It's on a little island on the Outer Banks, and has the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse nearby. The town is composed mainly of wooden houses, with a few brick structures here and there, and quite a lot of beach along the seaward side of the island. It's really a pity that I'm only learning this so I can better destroy the place...

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