Wednesday 16 October 2019

Tangling with the facts

Most writers will tell you they LOVE research. Well, who wouldn't, if it involves holidays - sorry - research trips - or maybe having lunch with an expert on something, even an afternoon going down all the rabbit holes on the Internet on your chosen subject - you can call it work and it doesn't involve, you know, actually writing anything. What better way of spending a wet afternoon than exploring rabbit holes on unknown poisons and the price of body bags - the stuff that is going to look really good on your browsing history if the police/your nearest and dearest, ever have occasion to look at it.

That's one of the problems with research - it's seductive. You can so easily get carried away with something that you didn't know you wanted to know, or that you will never use - probably. Although you always justify yourself with the excuse that it will make a book, someday. (At the moment my somedays are probably going to involve living, and writing, until at least 110.) There is also the special law of diminishing use, that applies to most research. The more you have, the less you actually use. Restraint is the key here, otherwise you get the infamous info dump. We've probably all read that book where the author has done the research and you are going to know about it. All of it. In detail. Although, in fact, when you encounter one of those it should really be cherished, as an Awful Warning.  Sadly you have to choose - three days research will give you maybe two lines or three nicely spaced facts in the final manuscript.  But you did have the fun of that wet afternoon on the Internet.

The other peril author research is hoarding. I have a very large bag, and a drawer, full of interesting snippets that took my fancy. Also extracts and bookmarks on the computer that might one day come in handy. Some of them are hallmarked for an actual manuscript, a lot are in the someday category - see above. I really must go through them to see what is in there. Maybe there's even the makings of a book. And you know that thing, about the police looking at your browsing history - well, it's got me wondering about a cosy crime. But I don't write cosy crime.

See what I mean - seductive.

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