Day 30 – Writing versus research

Day thirty of My 365 Day Writing Project.

Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Words: 1,200

To update those who read Day 29’s post, I revisited the “piece within the piece.” I decided that the main character should just read the first few paragraphs of the article and then skip to the end of the article. This decision eliminates two things: 1) the need to write a full, realistic article in the voice of an experienced journalist; and 2) the risk of the reader getting too bored and disconnected from the main story line because of a long article.

This is why: My main character, Skylar, at this particular moment in the story is hiding in a utility closet in a Barnes and Noble. She is hiding because she is on the run from a creepy guy who has been following her for two days. A computer geek acquaintance from many years ago – Ben – sought her out to tell her she is in danger about the same time the creepy guy showed up, and, oh by the way, it’s his fault. Without getting into all of the background, Skylar is now sitting on a box in a closet until Ben can lose the creepy guy and can come back to get her. She fumbles through her purse in search of a snack (we all know how hiding out in a closet makes a person hungry) and starts organizing the contents of her purse (what else should she do, she’s in a closet). She pulls out a newspaper clipping that was given to her by a friend (who just so happens to be a wise old journalist with a penchant for conspiracy theories and who often cuts out newspaper clippings to give her). She reads the first few paragraphs of the article, which reports a news story eerily similar to what little she knows about the danger she is in, and in her nervous haste (from being, you know, chased into a Barnes and Noble by a creepy guy from whom she now hides) skips to the end of the article to read the last paragraph. She connects some imaginary dots and pieces together a theory about who may be after her and Ben and why. A figurative light bulb goes off (ding!) and she’s figured out something critical. Or at least she thinks she has…

Anyway, I think it works to handle the article inside the story line this way, but I will admit it isn’t solid yet. I have to do more research for the content of the article to really work in the story (that last paragraph of the article really needs to be a kicker), and I need to brush up on my AP writing style rules. I’ll have to keep working on this piece. In the meantime, I am wondering what is the best way to handle research when writing. I like doing research, but it takes time and I am not one to research everything in advance. I tend to do it as I go or save some of it for later if I don’t want to take time out from writing in the moment.

What do other writers do? Research everything before writing the story, research as-you-go, or leave parts unfinished to complete later after all of the research has been done? Hmmmm…food for thought for next time.