Posted by: Kathleen Mix | March 12, 2013

Research Pitfalls

Beginning writers are often advised to write about what they know. In the Internet age, knowledge about a subject is rarely a problem. An author can learn about almost any subject by spending a few hours in serious research.
But the results of doing research can expose a writer to two large pitfalls.
First, if the subject is complex and/or fascinating, the research can become a reason (read: excuse) to put off writing. Day after day, the research data accumulates, but the word count of the manuscript remains static. Days can stretch to weeks, weeks to months, and still the procrastinating writer follows more links and learns every possible detail about their chosen subject.
The second pitfall results from the volume of information the writer’s research reveals. Finding the data she’s collected fascinating, and hating to feel her time has been wasted on useless research, the writer is tempted to include too much in her story.
I recently read a suspense novel by a bestselling author who fell into that trap. She included long passages of background information on Nascar that the reader didn’t need. Wanting the story to move on and bored by the encyclopedic presentation, I skipped over the history lesson. The inclusion of that data slowed the pacing of a good story and tarnished my opinion of that author’s work.
The moral of this post: Do the research you need, but remember that writers write. And no matter how interesting the facts you find might be, if they don’t add some value to the story, leave them out.


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