When is There Too Much Research?

I’m in the middle of reading a book right now called “The Gargoyle” by Andrew Davidson.  The book is amazing, not just for the wonderful storytelling, but also for the amount of research he had to have done to write the book.  Parts of the tale take place in Germany, Japan, and Finland.  He studied the ways of German convents in the 1300’s and Japanese glass blowing.  Viking raids, stone carving and cross bows.  Dante’s Inferno and the writings of German mystics.  And last, but not least, the medicine and science behind saving the life of a severe burn victim.

I can’t imagine the amount of research needed to make the story telling feel smooth and natural.  I never feel like I’m reading a text book, and all of the details that are included fit naturally into the story – he isn’t just showing off his research skills.

As I’m writing my own book, I’m realizing more and more how much research goes into a novel.  I’ll be writing away and come to where I need to write down the name of a street, or I need to name the kind of apartment complex the victim is in, or the name of the park where I see the street people every day.  Right now, if I don’t know it off-hand, I’ll mark it in the document in order to come back and fill it in later.  My novel is starting to fill up with these holes on the pages.  And this is just for a novel that takes place in a city I’ve lived in most of my life and the story takes place in our current time line.  Going back in time or to another country has to be that much more difficult.

Now, I enjoy research, so that isn’t really daunting to me.  I love to learn about new things and people and places.  It’s the time it takes to research things properly that intimidates me a bit.  I’ll need to do some more serious research for some of the future projects I have in mind and I’m not sure how much time to set aside for it.  I don’t want to get too bogged down in details – I just need to know enough to give the story a sense of truth and anchor it in place.  But how do you know when you have enough?  I guess I’ll know if I was successful or not with the preliminary research by the number of information gaps left in my manuscript when I finish the first draft.

Right now I’m watching the snow swirling around outside my window.  It’s the biggest snow storm we’ve had yet in Denver this winter.  So, I’m going to spend the day at home and work on my word count for the current novel.  If you have to be out and driving around in this weather, stay safe.



Filed under writing

2 responses to “When is There Too Much Research?

  1. Mateo

    I, for one, appreciate a writer who does her research. There is nothing more annoying than cruising through the story only to hit a glaring inaccuracy. Such mistakes can make you doubt the author’s veracity and once those seeds of doubt are planted. The other annoyance that many authors perpetrate is poor continuity. That being said, knowing you are a detailed person makes me very confident in your writing!

    • I recently read a mystery that took place in a small mountain town in the Front Range. The writer talked about the smell of cherries from the produce trucks coming from the Western Slope – and it was September! Yikes.

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