As I’ve said before I’ve been writing seriously 10 years, before that I dabbled. My high school teachers would go into shock if they were to discover I’m a published writer now. Back in the day (mid-80’s) when I was a student I hated writing. Don’t ask why because even I don’t have a clue. Perhaps, it was because I was required to write for my classes. Now I write because I want to write, not because someone tells me I have too.
I started out writing seriously when I discovered fan-fiction after purchasing my first computer. Well, I didn’t exactly discover it. I’d been aware of it, but the discovery of the internet opened my eyes to the possibilities. I started out writing fan-fiction in The X-Files fandom and I always leaned towards writing more adult themes. Yes, I wrote what the Fandom community calls Gen-fic which is fiction without a sexual pairing. Even then in the beginning I was a research nut. To write in Fandom and offer out your work is to invite the masses that lurk on the internet to critique your work without a formal invitation.
Part of writing in Fandom is making sure you a) can take the critique without breaking down in tears and b) you know your Fandom’s canon down to the most minute detail. If there is one thing that Fandom offers a budding writer is the a critical eye that can be described as being a bug under a microscope.
It was as one of these bugs that I honed my craft. Unlike most of these budding writers I refused to have what they call a Beta which is basically a fandom editor. In my opinion if I were going to learn anything I needed to do it on my own. I’m a stubborn woman who has a huge dose of Irish and German running through my blood with a wee bit of Cherokee. My mom used to say that I had a head that was half-block, half-brick, and it would take a sledge hammer to get through to me. I cherish my hard head because honestly if it weren’t for it I might not be sitting here yammering at you as if I have a bloody clue what I’m talking about. *laughs*
I digress though. Back to the subject in question. My first thought was to keep the blood thirsty detail oriented fans off my ass was to make sure of the details whether it was canon or things that I brought into my stories; towns, streets, vegetation (yes vegetation), and anything else you could possibly think of.
Learning how to research wasn’t that difficult and I also learned that I loved to do it. Over the years I’ve met a few writers who hate doing the research. This to me boggles the mind. Hate research? How could anyone hate research? Okay, maybe I’m just weird, but I love writing and to me research is a huge part of that. Trust me if you screw up some one will tell you. So, why risk getting the detailers on your ass when you could easily do a little research? Hell, as most of us in the publishing community know any decent editor is one of these detailers and they will call bullshit if they smell it. If you put in the time and effort on research in the beginning it is less likely that rewrites will be a huge pain in the ass. (Have you noticed I love the word ass?)
One of my friends early on crowned me The Google Queen because she swore that I could find anything on Google in 60-seconds flat. I wouldn’t go that far, but Google and I have become wonderful friends. In this day in age research is fairly simple in my opinion. Back when I was in high school (again this was the early-mid 80’s) doing research for an assignment meant hanging out in the eerie silence of the stacks, digging through newspapers, books, and micro-fiche. In my senior year I took a class called Western Cultures. My teacher, Mr. Cheek (yes that was his name), required that we pick a country in Europe from a list, and create a notebook that was worth 50% of our grade. As most high-school students are apt to do my fellow students grabbed the easiest countries. I on the other hand chose Romania which Mr. Cheek believed was extremely difficult since this was back before the Iron Curtain dropped. I could have cared less about that considering that Romania was where Transylvania was and by the gods that was where Bram Stoker found his inspiration for Dracula. Yeah, I’ve been a vampire aficionado since I was a wee-one.
To make a long story short (too late!) I passed that class with flying colors and Mr. Cheek praised my research abilities. Of course the rest of my class was pissed that I showed them up by picking a place like Romania and getting the highest grade. Fucked up that curve for everyone–didn’t I? Guess I’ve always been a research geek, I just didn’t realize it.
My entire point is that as a writer, research is an essential skill in my humble opinion. Even if you write paranormal, science fiction, or fantasy you must be able to present a world that makes sense on a basic level. To do that you must do your research. Trust me all writers do research. I grant you that writers who’ve hit the big time more than likely have personal assistants who do it for them, but the research is still done.
So, as a writer what do you think or feel about research? As a reader do you believe that research is essential to a good story? I’d love to here your opinions.