Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group #001: Is there ever enough research?

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh of his blog. On the first Wednesday of every month, we writers who are insecure about ourselves one way or another talk about what makes us insecure. The purpose of this blog hop is to encourage and help writers move past these insecurities and write the stories we were meant to write.

You can view the main page for it here & join the fun!

This Month's Insecurity: Did I do enough research?

I've found while writing Mermaid Tears, I've done enough research on mermaids, pirates, how ships out at sea work as well as other significant things. But then I come across something in my story that makes me freeze and it makes me start to think that maybe I should have looked into the moon's phases more as I lightly touched earlier.

And yet I realize that I'm writing a fantasy - I can practically do whatever I want with my world, story, characters. On one hand, this does give me a little bit of freedom to explore the world, especially through Misora's eyes. Remember; Misora had never been outside the prison walls all her life - everything she sees other than the Ruby Heart crew is completely brand new to her as well!

Then it seems the story included itself with not just humans and mermaids, but lizard people, Dwarves, and Elves and even the casual mention to Orcs! And maybe even more peoples and races I've yet to even start writing about!

Is there no end to research? Thankfully, it's not that bad since it's something that I, not only have to research for my story, but for fun. Maybe it's mindless trivia for some people but I feel like since I'm a writer - I have to know how everything works. Thus the research never ends.

And that scares me. I don't want to seem like a know-it-all and I don't want to just throw in random tidbits in my story just for the sake of "look at me, I've clearly done my research". What do I do? How do I know when it's enough research?

Even though it's a fantasy setting, how much research is too much?


  1. I worry about this stuff, too. I'm writing a HR right now, and, the other day when researching which cities were in existence then, I came across some info that totally ruined an upcoming scene and would have been a major plausibility issue with readers. With a few tweaks, I was able to use the information to actually make the scene better, but now I wonder how many OTHER things there are I'm missing. Ugh.

    As far as how much detail/info to include, that I've pretty well got down. One has to do research behind the scenes, then let that be the framework of the writing without letting it take over. In fact, if we do it right, the reader will only see a fraction of what we've studied in our finished work.

    We have to weave enough facts in that our story seems real without including so much that we either come across as a history lesson/non-fiction textbook (e.g. bore the reader) or hang ourselves with our own rope regarding plausibility.

    If you study the subject matter well, then keep your writing tight, you'll be fine. ;)

    Welcome to the group.
    IWSG #145 until Alex culls the list again. :)

    1. Oh I hate it when that happens! Hopefully, though this will give you a chance to check out some interesting things!

      Hm, this is a good point.

      Thank you so much for the comment!

  2. I can sympathise with this - particularly when I take the stories into new areas I hadn't originally planned to.

    I write more scifi than fantasy, but there's times when I take the story on a bit of a tangent or think of a bit of world-building, and I find that I'm not quite sure how that part of the story will work...

    I think as long as you get the big things right, and get the smaller things at least convincing, you should be okay!

    1. I always think a bit of exposition is always rewarding in the long run. The best thing I can say is think of "why is this important? will it come up later in the story or stories in some way?"

      I think that helps me determine what part of my world building gets to be told at that particular point in the story or not.

      Hm, this is also a good point! Thank you! Good luck with your WIP!

  3. It's great you do a lot of research -- moon phases and all! I don't think you can ever do too much. It's important to make your world as detailed and believable as possible. You just want to make sure that not too many details get into the narrative and slow it down. Only the most crucial facts the reader needs to know need to be in there, and the rest you keep for yourself.
    Great post! :-)

    1. This is a very good point! There really isn't such a thing as too much research! It's always about how it's presented. ;)

      Thank you so much!

  4. Welcome to IWSG! I think research could go on and on because you're always learning. Good luck with your WIP! :)

    1. Thank you! :) This is true! Thank you for the well wishes.

  5. Great post for IWSG . . .but I don't know that I can answer your question. I think as long as the project keeps moving forward, and research is fun, then you've haven't hit the top limit of your research. I keep looking things up as I write . . .it never really ends for me although I think every writer creates their own world in fantasy, it's nice to not surprise people with something like Orc princesses, although that might be fun for a humorous story.

  6. I write science fiction, so I have some of the same worries as you. I get to make stuff up, but I have to understand what is or is not scientifically plausible too.

    When I'm not sure about my scientific facts, I tend to write something intentionally vague. I might describe some futuristic machine as "metallic" simply because I don't know which metal would work best for this machine's intended purpose. If I do my research, I'll know it should be made of titanium or aluminum or strontium... or maybe it should be carbon, which isn't metallic at all.

    I'd say you've done enough research when you don't have to be intentionally vague or worse guess about factual things.

    -JS Pailly.

  7. Yeah, if you try to be perfectly prepared, the research will never end. Jump into writing as soon as you think you might be able to string three words together and figure out the rest later. ;)

  8. Welcome to the IWSG! Research--humbug...that's why I write fantasy LOL! New follower here :)

  9. I love to do research and feel it necessary, even when writing fantasy. Fantastical worlds have to make sense, too, and research does that. Normally, I over-research things, never having to use a tenth of it. But I'm prepared...and a lot of times, it comes in handy with another story.

    Research begins to be too much when it keeps you from writing your story. That's when one has to say, "Enough!" and start writing!

  10. Research is something I particularly enjoy when brain-storming for a new story; I enjoy learning, I feel I have a thirst for knowledge, and it becomes a fun activity for me. I have researched a huge range of subjects from the daily life of an oiran courtesan in medieval Japan and obscure ancient mythologies, to the history of the London Underground and the intelligence of elephants (random eh?). In fairness, though, on any subject, there will always be more to learn, even if you are an expert or an enthusiast. I think the fact a writer has done their research usually comes across in their work. The only downside I find is that my local library is a particularly poor source of information, and being as I can't just go out by books of any subject that may take my fancy (don't have enough monies, or book shelves!), I have to resort to wikipedia, and you always have to take wiki with a pinch of salt. And sometimes it's worded boringly too :P

  11. Great question, and it's something I wonder about while writing science fiction. How much science do I need to throw into the fiction? How much explanation is really needed for the reader to understand what's going on?

    I think you hit the balance for research when the information given adds to the story instead of bogging it down with exposition. The info you've collected will help the story feel authentic, and help you build descriptions.

    I'm a new follower via GFC. My blog is Nice to meet you!

  12. For fantasy we can take a few liberties. I do that by going easy on the research. Visiting from IWSG.

  13. I hate doing research for books, just as much as I love it. I tend to stick to Fantasy and the like, because then I don't have to do research. :)

    No one can ever be fully prepared, or have every little detail in place when it comes to research. Just do your best. Books come with a built-in disbelief.



    PS: I'm new. Nice to meet you!

  14. I think it all depends on the style and detail of your writing. I write YA fantasy and I don't do much research at all because I am building my own worlds. I will look up things every once in a while to see what the "accepted" understanding of a creature is, but my stories don't rely on what others have written or mythology in general, and I like creating new beings that haven't been done before. That said, if you write detail and it comes through fluidly, then go with that. I love both kinds of books and everyone's style has a place. It is easy to get lost in details and not write though (I do this sometimes with character naming). Great post!


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