writing

Research vs. Revision

There are some dangers to being in research mode on one project and revision mode on another. I’m not overly crazy about revision. Sometimes it’s fun to take something that’s not so great and take it to the next level, but usually it’s just plain tedious. The excitement of discovering the story is over and there’s often a deadline looming. It’s very easy to fall into a zombie-like state and realize you don’t even remember what you’ve just been reading.

That’s why I’ve been breaking up revision sessions with research sessions. I work on a chapter, which is about as much as I can deal with before I find myself getting lazy, then I spend half an hour or so reading a reference book. Except sometimes the time gets away from me because I LOVE research. What I’m reading right now is history, which is something I love. I would have majored in history in college, but I wasn’t sure what kind of job I could get with that degree (and I needed to find a job to support my goal of writing novels). I probably ended up with an informal minor in history because almost all of my electives related in some way to history.

To me, reading a book on history is almost as much fun as reading a novel. For the book I’m researching, I’m drawing upon multiple historical periods. One is one I know a lot about, so I’m mostly looking for new insights and details that are pertinent to the world I’m building. One is a period I’ve done some research in and am interested in, but I still have a lot more to learn. And one is a period I know next to nothing about, but it’s fascinating to learn. I hadn’t even thought about drawing upon this period, but I was watching a documentary that I hoped would touch upon one of the other periods I was researching, and it brought up a lot of information about this other time, and I realized how relevant it was to the story I had in mind.

If I do my job correctly, readers may recognize bits and pieces in my world that are relevant to our real world, but it will still be a new and interesting place. Building a world is a lot of fun, imagining their history and culture, thinking about what it looks like, what people wear, what they do, what they eat, and so forth. This will be a true “secondary world” in that it’s not set in our world in any way, though it is based on things from our world (since that’s the only world I’ve lived in). It’s a story idea that’s been lurking in my head for years, and it’s finally jumping up an down and demanding attention.

But first, I have to finish revising this book. In between research sessions.

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