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How much research?

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How do you historical writers know when you've got "enough" research?

I feel like I need to be an expert on the era before I can begin the story -- but the story is what is truly the heart of the book, accurate research makes it ring true.

Two years ago, I started researching for a historical fiction YA and never got past the 'researching' part.  Now I've got this new idea for another historical fiction -- only I'm afraid to jump in to the black hole of research again.

What works for you?  How do you balance writing the story and reading the history?
#1 - July 13, 2004, 01:35 PM


I've posted this before, but a friend of mine just wrote his book on the sketchiest of research and then went back and did major research before his second draft.  Like your project, it was the story and characters that were most important to him and the historical detail simply added richness and believability to the work. 

I'm following the same approach -- a little research to be followed by more.  I'm afraid if I get too caught up in the research, I'll lose my drive to write the story I love.
#2 - July 13, 2004, 02:29 PM

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Hi, Caroline,
Because I love to read so much, I can "over-research".  I think sometimes it's my excuse for not writing.  So I need to take the advice I'm going to give to you: write your story and then later, double and triple check your facts to make sure you haven't introduced errors.  I know, easier said than done.  But when I start working on my historical stuff again, I will write and read, not just read.
Good luck.  Vijaya
#3 - July 13, 2004, 02:47 PM
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I do the same thing.  Enough research to get me excited about what I'm writing, then I write the story. After the bare bones are laid of the story line, then I make sure all the details are correct with extensive research.  And yes, I DO have to rewrite a lot of my stories sometimes.  But the work I've put into the books seems to make them that much richer, and that much better, so I never feel any of it is "wasted."
#4 - July 13, 2004, 04:49 PM
Verla Kay

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Great advice!  Thanks guys. :)

I think I will absorb as much as I can over the summer and jump right in!
#5 - July 14, 2004, 05:31 AM

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At the Virginia Festival of the Book this fall, an audience member asked Elisa Carbone what she did about writer's block and she answered, "Do more research."

#6 - July 14, 2004, 07:03 AM
VAMPIRINA BALLERINA series (Disney-Hyperion)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others


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