Researching Fun

Since I’m not a sports fan, I’m kind of surprised that I’m actually looking forward to going downtown to a baseball game later today. Usually I’m more excited about going out to dinner after the game. But this time my interest has been piqued by a research opportunity. All week my story has been building to a trip my lovers and her kids take to a baseball game.

When I was trying to come up with an idea for their first outing as a foursome, a baseball game came to mind for a couple of reasons. The time of year is right, and Al & I used to take our boys down to Tiger Stadium and they loved it. 

Tiger Stadium is gone, and I never much paid attention to the kid stuff at the new ballpark. Our boys were grown when it was built, but I’ve seen the miniature baseball Ferris wheel, and I think there’s a carousel with tigers instead of horses. I can’t imagine what they charge for rides on those things.

I’ll also have to check out the souvenirs, because Mike and Tim always took great delight in choosing something to take home. The kid food is likely still ball park franks but the vendors have gotten a lot fancier than peanuts and Cracker Jacks. I need to pay attention to what the kids around me are eating.

For once I’ll buy a program (mystifying all my friends and particularly my husband) so I spell the players’ names right. I know I could look this stuff up online, but it’s way more fun to gather the artifacts. And I didn’t plan it this way, but it seems a good omen that the baseball scene comes right after the scenes I’m writing today, because of course I’m going to get my 1000 words in before we go to the game.

Research After Writing

I’m in the middle of the WIP. This is the part of the book that seems like it will never end. To make matters muddier, I’m in unfamiliar territory with the whole police procedure thing. My plan is to make up stuff for now and research later. It’s the only way I can move forward. And that’s what I need to do right now.

Super busy with school, so I only have time for an hour or two of writing in the mornings. That hour or two makes the rest of my day okay. In a few weeks, when the semester is over, I’ll have all the time in the world for research. I’m thinking I should just watch every CSI ever aired. That counts as research, right? (Kidding.)

What’s good about moving forward through unfamiliar territory is that I don’t get bogged down with research, I don’t spend days, weeks, and months learning things I don’t really need to know. If I shape my story first, I’ll know exactly what I need to research and then I just google it. It’s not a very scholarly method, but it works for me.

Pay Off

“Boxing Christmas” up at 50-Something. Besides getting ready for the holidays, I have also been guiding my students through the research process, and, for the past few days, doing a ton of research of my own. After adding 20 pages to my Gypsy notebook, I’m done with the research (for now). This morning I began layering all I’d learned, and all the ideas that came as a result of the research, into my story.

When I started with the research, I believed it would only impact Chapter 4, which is still in the “thinking” stage. I have a Romany funeral to write, and I wanted the details to be exotic and accurate. So I went back to the research books I originally used to write Gypsy. (Thanks Becky! I still have the fabulous book you sent me a few years ago and it’s proving invaluable. Again.) 

This research time has been so valuable, and not just for historical accuracy. Every time I research, I also start adding ideas about how that research will impact my story, how I can integrate it into the plot. In this way, I found a key element of conflict and created a whole personality plus motivation for my antagonist, who has been a shadowy figure to me up until now. 

My plan to stay with the first three chapters has paid off in surprising ways. Today, I added three pages to the first scene alone. I think I’ve figured out why I want to take my time and work this way. It’s because if I just push forward, when my agent asks to see the manuscript, I would feel too pressured to revise at this pace. I’d feel the need to rack up 20 pages of revision a day and maybe would have skipped the research.

Adventures in Bookland

Finished drafting the final scene in my third R&B notebook today AND began again typing the story into a document. Am now the proud author of a vast 14 page manuscript! A minimum of three typed pages a day will see the scribbled notebook material organized and ready to read in a few weeks.  

Devoured one research book word by word, it was that good. Got lots of info for a few scenes that incorporate some actual historical characters. I’ve never used real people before this way; it’s fun work. Skimmed another reference enough to see it doesn’t contain a few of the exact facts I need. Been through five or six books, several libraries, bookstores, and internet sites tracking facts. 

Will make like a book detective today & venture farther afield for the so far illusive tome.  I want that book, those facts, in my hands today. 

Other projects are starting to pop into my head, but they’re all still in planning stages, side things I want do at the same time I’m writing the novel. To that end, I have a couple of queries to compose before I commence the great book hunt.

On the (research) road

When is it time to stop researching and to start writing again? For me, it’s a question I try to be mindful of while madly clicking away and taking notes and cutting and pasting and making lists.

The point came for me today when I realized I was way too deep into Jack Kerouac for no reason other than the fact that he has always interested me. Oh, and the slight fact that he died in St. Pete around the time Rose & Belinda are in the area.

Wiki says that “throughout most of the ’50s, Kerouac was constantly trying to have his work published, and consequently he often revised and re-arranged manuscripts in an often futile attempt to interest publishers” which is the exact opposite of the writing advice he gave others, among which was to try to only get drunk in your own house, and to smoke pot, like Proust.

Kerouac had better writing ideas than staying stoned; some that reminded me of Natalie Goldberg, which isn’t surprising since they are both students of Zen. My favorite: “Scribble secret notebooks and wild typewritten pages for yr own joy.”

I need to start doing that again and stop already with the research. At least for now.