If Walls Could Talk: Research and Rabbit Trails

M.H. Norris

The internet can be a writer’s best friend, especially when it comes to research. But it can also quickly become a writer’s worst nightmare.

It’s no secret that often times I’ll wander off on a rabbit trail here as I make my way to whatever point I happen to have that day. Maybe occasionally I have a reason for wandering off on said rabbit trail…

Yeah, I do it a lot. Here in my weekly column, in discussions I have with people, and when I do research, too.

There was a time with Badge City: Notches where I hadn’t quite decided how it was going to end. Actually, if you go and look on what I submitted to Pro Se vs. how the book actually ended,  they’re a little different. The whodunit didn’t change, but I had a scene in my head that I was tempted to write.

But to write it, I had to do some significant research.

This was a two day researching session going on websites, blogs, and going over the chapter in one of my books I was reading.

Part of the reason I spent time on this scene was I felt like I needed to justify a decision I’d been thinking about. I felt like I could justify after that research.

But then, after spending two days on research I later decided to ditch that whole scene. I probably would have done it earlier than I did if it weren’t for that fact that I was being butt-stubborn.

So in the end, that ended up being something I left unsaid,  and something I considered addressing later.

Later won’t come.

But maybe sometime someone will ask me about it, or stumble across this post and ask me what that two day research session was about and what I left unsaid…

Yesterday, news broke on a slightly-related topic to my two-day research session and I ended up spending two hours looking up the case, the development in it that got me started on that rabbit trail just going over it in a sense.

So my research rabbit trail caused a rabbit trail of its own…

That’s my problem with research. I find something I find fascinating and then I end up spending way more time than I should working on that–instead of what I should be researching.

That’s why I said the internet can be a writer’s best friend or their worst enemy. The sheer amount of information out there can be overwhelming and trying to sort out what is useful to you and what isn’t is a full time job.

That, and the act of having to research a novel can be overwhelming. Which is why it sometimes takes me a while to slide into that stage of writing a book.

With Notches, I had pages upon pages of notes. Yet I was still going to Google while writing the story. I had articles printed out, statistics memorized, and a story in mind. But, sometimes, I still needed more.

Research lays the foundation for the rest of the story.

The trick is making sure you don’t let yourself get but so distracted when laying that foundation.