Friday, October 2, 2009

How much is too much?

Last week in a fit of retail therapy, I ordered research books online. They sneakily arrived while I was out of town (judging at the Australian Shepherd Club of America National Specialty, which was one of my lifetime goals - yay!). This morning I decided to organize my desk before jumping back into the writing. Good intentions and all, but alas I made the mistake of opening up the packages. I should have ruthlessly shoved them aside for weekend reading. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Did not.

A wrinkle in time then occured. 'Tis true. A black hole opened up beneath my chair on rollers and somehow I lost an hour of writing time. One moment it was 11:02 a.m. and the next thing I know, I glanced at my watch again and it was after noon.

One book follows the life of Robert the Bruce, and another about Edward II is still en route. Neither of these were available when the seeds of my stories were but moldy little sprouts in the lightless recesses of my brain. I'm hoping they'll help flesh out some weak points in the plot, but also afraid I'll end up adding another 30,000 words to bring realism to the story, then deleting the same amount later so as not to overwhelm the reader . It's a vicious cycle in the chaotic process that is writing, but it happens.

Next, I opened The Medieval Fortress, by Kaufmann and Kaufmann. I forgot I had laundry to fold, a story to finish and even, I'm pretty sure, my own name for awhile. Page after page of detailed sketches of castle gates, timber hoardings, and arrow loops (who knew there were so many different kinds?). Oh the glory and wonder of research! I read, I see PICTURES, and I am THERE!!!

Then I realized the danger that lurks for writers of historical fiction. Detail brings reality and credibility to stories, but it can also overrun them. Like dark chocolate and Toasted Almond coffee, both of which I love, research for me is best done in moderation - otherwise, I'd never get on with writing. So maybe the question is not 'how much is too much', but 'how much is enough'?

Okay, drawing on my inner strength and sliding those pretty books far, far awaaaaayyyy from me. I will not touch them until I have written today. I will not touch them until I have written today. I will not touch them until I have written today. I will not...

Until later,


Anita Davison said...

Indulge yourself, make some coffee and immerse your spirit in research - you'll come out a richer spirited lady and with so many interesting things to say. The laundry will still be there - and they'll probably be more tomorrow!
Books are precious

Mirella Patzer said...

I too have The Medieval Fortress and spent the better part of a Saturday going through its pages. Research is very important when writing a historical novel. From my experience, it's also quite difficult to find the tiny details or clarify things. So don't feel bad. You may have spent an hour reading and researching, but I'll bet you've saved yourself countless of hours in fixing errors you might have made had you got anything incorrect.


Lisa J Yarde said...

I want that book! Research is so essential to your writing and the fascinating details can lend more authenticity to your story. I sympathize but don't worry, the laundry will always be there waiting for you.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Took one of my books to read while waiting for an appt. today and don't you know it was one of those rare occasions when I got in right away. I was miffed. It was just getting good. The highlighting will commence anon.

The Medieval Fortress is incredible, btw! Funny reading the other two, because the bias is apparent, depending on whose biography it is. Oooo, there's another blog post in the works there!

Jen Black said...

author bias? Oh yes, indeed it exists. I'll look out for your post about it,