It’s a given that if you undertake to write a book, you need to do a little homework on your chosen subject. This is doubly true for Historical Fiction.
But lets be honest, Historical Fiction authors don’t just do “a little homework”. In fact many of us are what you might call “Research Junkies”.
We thrive when we’re knee deep in musty old books, scrolling through pages of historical journals or exploring ancient locals in an effort to better grasp the period and people we choose to write about. The opportunity to attend a lecture from a noteworthy historian in our chosen field is tantamount to a Hollywood meet and greet with your favorite celebrity.
While the process of research has the potential to bring hours of pleasurable discovery…it also has a serious pitfall.
Rabbit trails (aka Rabbit holes)
Believe me! I’m no stranger to this vice. In fact, it might be part of the reason why I’m now entering my thirteenth year studying Irish History and the Vikings.
This morning alone found me jumping from books and articles on strangulation victims and treatment to the origins of the Irish language and differences between Ancient Irish and Middle Irish.
Pretty broad, huh?
That’s typical. It’s easy to jump from one unrelated subject to another in an attempt to authenticate characters and places. The real trick is focusing these random research tangents into concise endeavors so that I’m not robbing myself of actual writing time.
So how does one do this?
That’s a good question and I wish I had a good answer. In fact, if you or anyone you know has a sure-fire method to keep writers from the proverbial rabbit hole of research, I’d love to hear it!
In the mean time, I generally take one of two paths:
- Discover a subject that leads me down several blissful (but never-ending) research trails resulting in a day where not much else gets done.
- Discipline myself to focus on one thing and either stop once I’ve found it, or relegate it to the “find later” list if no immediate answer is found.
Sometimes these two results collide and I find I’ve spent an entire day looking for something that just can’t be found. That’s frustrating.
How about you? Have you ever found yourself falling down the endless rabbit hole of research? If so, how did you climb back out again?