Thursday 19 April 2012

The boundary between research and prewriting

I'm gradually coming to the end of the research I originally planned for my new book. Since this project is set in a period of time that was until recently unfamiliar to me, the reading list was huge and the list of things to research even longer. I'm very much of the 'massive detail' school of thought when it comes to planning a book; if I know all that can be known about a subject, my logic goes, then that detail will produce a richer story even if I only use a fraction of it directly.

My topics of research have covered everything from glaciology to cartography, from gambling to theatre, from music to popular fiction. Finally I'm nearing the end of the pile of work I originally set myself when I started. As usual, the pile grew as I found other avenues of investigation, and as usual I tended to get carried away with the research at times, perhaps losing track of my final goal in the fascinating tangents I found myself in. But unlike some writers, who feel the need to stick very strictly to their original plans, I embrace these tangents and believe they enrich my work.

The thing I find hardest to cope with is admitting to myself I've done enough. I enjoy research so much--that magical period in a book's lifespan when you discover possibilities every day and the opportunities seem limitless--that I don't like it to end! I find myself approaching this boundary now; I only have one book left to read and make notes on, and realistically I don't have to make any physical visits to my settings, as I have been there and made notes in past years, in anticipation of this moment.

The next phase is where the real work begins: prewriting and planning. Time to turn a mess of vague ideas into a concrete scheme.

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