It seems every day, even when I’ve thoroughly researched a subject or a person and am in the middle of writing about it or her, a simple session of Internet research turns up new sources and resources that at the very least enrich, at the most reinterpret what I’m doing. This is a blessing and a curse.
The Internet research rabbit hole is tempting
I love the research, as I’ve said elsewhere on this site. Once upon a time, when all we could use were books and original sources from archives, the research phase would have to finish at a certain point or we’d never start writing. Now, despite the pitfalls of stumbling on inaccurate or misleading information about one’s subject, the Internet is always there, all the time, as a resource to mine.
I think I’ve found just about everything useful for my project, and then one day I word a search slightly differently and come up with something that sheds new light on it, or fills in a blank I’d just decided to work around. It’s wonderful, but it can also be treacherous. This shiny new object I’ve just discovered—surely there’s a place I can put it in my novel? Maybe. Maybe not.
Editing starts off the page
Writing is editing: There’s never been a truer word said. As writers, we’re constantly making judgments about what to include and what to leave out; what to say and leave unsaid. The true genius in a novel is getting that balance right. And that goes for research as well. I may delight in knowing the exact route of a trolley in 1910 New York, but I don’t have to take my reader on a ride with it.
So why bother with that depth of research? Even without laying it in front of the reader’s eyes, everything I know and understand about the place, period, and personages involved informs the story. Depth of knowledge creates a solid foundation that helps ensure characters don’t take missteps into anachronism.
And then, there’s the sheer joy
I just discovered the video above. It was only uploaded a few days ago, so I couldn’t have discovered it before. I’m in the middle of a complete rewrite of my WIP and immersed in 1911 in New York as we speak. I didn’t learn anything much new from this video (except something about how many people fit into a car of the time), but it gave me an atmospheric view of this period I’ve been working in for years. I could watch it over and over again.
Now, back to writing.