Adventures In Research

You need to know why you want to tell a story before you begin to tell it. But with the why comes the how…and that requires endless research.

Two quotes I’ve coined on the subject:

1. For the purist: “Research is discovering facts and finding the passion.”

2. From personal experience: “Research is what a writer does to postpone the task of producing something to show for it.”

As regards the latter…

On a day trip to the Gettysburg Battlefield, a friend and I spotted a bookstore sign inviting customers in for a signing of “The Steel Wave,” by author Jeff Shaara, who also wrote the legendary “Gods and Generals.”

Eager for this chance to meet a favorite author, we hurried in to buy his book.

As Mr. Shaara was signing our purchases, my friend thoroughly embarrassed me by mentioning that I was writing a book. I cringed, but Jeff was pleasantly supportive and asked how it was going. I admitted I was bogged down in research and having trouble winding it up. He laughed and asked how long I’d been working on it. “Almost seven years,” I said.

“That happens to every writer,” he assured me. “You’ve done more than enough research. Here’s my best advice: stop researching and force yourself to write or you’ll never finish the book! Best of luck to you, and by the way, send me a copy when it’s done.”

I left the store exhilarated by my conversation with Jeff Shaara, and particularly by his words of encouragement. I took his sound advice, and several months later The Red Serpent was indeed a wrap.