Monday, April 19, 2010

Yikes!

I was so engrossed in something else that I completely lost track of time. It's almost ten, and I'm just starting this post. Yikes!

If I could say I'd been writing, losing track of time would be a good thing. Unfortunately, that's not the case. I was researching.

But you know what?

Researching can lead us into the most interesting territory. Detours, winding lanes, straight shots on the interstate, and whole neighborhoods filled with a different family in each house.

The things we learn when we take time to research can completely alter our thoughts. Not only in writing, but in our lives as well. But this is a writing post, so I'll stick to that.

Even if you don't plot ahead, you have a tiny glimmer of what's going to happen next. And even if you do plot, sometimes what's supposed to happen next doesn't. This is one of the things I love about writing.

But I digress.

For example ... you're researching ducks. The reason? Your protagonist is a wildlife biologist on vacation. She's hiking and comes upon a clearing with a pond. In the pond are two ducks.

Questions arise. She WILL know what kind of ducks these are and whether they are male, female, or one of each. So you look up different kinds of ducks that will be in her location at the right time of year.

None. Or none that look good enough to you to waste words describing. Maybe she doesn't see ducks. Or even a pond. Maybe she sees a mama bear with cubs. Danger! Yeah, that can work.

Oh. Brown bear or black bear? You're off again.

What's mama bear doing? Eating, resting, scratching her back? What do bears eat, anyway?

She needs to take a photo. Need to look up cameras.

When you're squirming in your chair because you need a little break, more than an hour has gone by and you've written ten words.

That you now need to delete.

Because you decided the protagonist needs to stay in town so the antagonist can photograph her from his truck a block away with his long lens zoom camera.

What are those things really called, anyway?

21 comments:

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I had to laugh as I've "been there" so many times!) Most of the time research does advance my plot, but there are days when it's a complete waste of my time.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

It always starts out as research and ends up diverging into 'that looks interesting' - click- 'that looks interesting - click - etc. etc. etc.

I shudder to think how many hours I've spent doing this. Of course, I'm much wiser for it. *cough, cough*

Aubrie said...

I love researching and I love google. If anything, it gives me pictures to helpme describe things in my books.

Southpaw said...

Research can take us so many directions and like you say not where we originally intended going. That keeps things interesting.

arlee bird said...

I know where you are coming from. I can get caught up in Google for hours. One question leads to another. For that matter I've gotten into lengthy explorations on Amazon-- I look up a particular item and then start looking at all the other recommended things and before you know it I've ordered something and added 30 more things to my wish list.
Used to do the same thing in the library, but the computer makes it so much faster.

Lee
May 3rd A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post

Carol Kilgore said...

Jane - You never know which of those directions it will take.

Elspeth - Research always enriches our knowledge base [clearing throat] :)

Aubrie - Oh yes, I love pictures, too.

Southpaw - Interesting. I like interesting!

Carol Kilgore said...

Arlee - Much faster with the computer than without it. We can clutter - er, enrich - our minds with much more in the same amount of time.

KarenG said...

Research used to be a bad word for me. Until Google. And now it is fun, stimulating, and a whole lOT easier!

Helen Ginger said...

Very funny...and, unfortunately, so true, for me anyway. You can get lost in research and time slips away. I've had it happen, for sure.

Gonna go tweet this.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Carol Kilgore said...

Karen - It's even more fun when you liked to research the old fashioned way.

Helen - Happens more than I would like. Thanks for the tweet.

Talli Roland said...

Haha! So, so true. I love researching but it can turn into a giant time-waster for me so I need to be strict with myself! Sadly I'm not always successful!

Mason Canyon said...

Research is such a helpful (painful) tool. Isn't there an old saying about too much knowledge. Maybe that's what they were talking about and didn't even though it. :)

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Carol Kilgore said...

Talli - I know what you mean.

Mason - Sometimes I think my head is filled with knowledge I'll never use.

kimberlyloomis said...

Omg - oh, so very true. I don't know how it happens, but next thing I know I've lost several hours (days, but whose keeping track/being honest?) and a new plot point has been found while at least one other was obliterated. It is fun, though! Hope you're enjoying the new journey your manuscript is taking you on!

Conda V. Douglas said...

So funny! So true! Why I sometimes use generics as in "type of duck here" while working. Otherwise, it's like: oh, look at that adorable duck, what kind is it? Can you have it as a pet? Oh, look, you can! I'm sure my cat would be fine with..."

Carol Kilgore said...

Kimberly - I've done that, too. All in the name of making a better story, of course ;)

Conda - I need instant gratification because I never know when that particular duck might influence something in the story.

Kathy McIntosh said...

I giggled, too, Carol. Research is indeed necessary, but it can take me on fascinating byways. A wonderful way to procrastinate. I NEED to know why a marmot is sometimes called a whistle pig, and is that only in some regions? I love Google.

VR Barkowski said...

LOL! I'm a research junkie. It's what I was trained for, and the need to know seeps into everything I do. Writing is no exception. The web is an amazing resource, but I often find myself at the library. Research is who I am. But it can distract... :)

Carol Kilgore said...

Kathy - Google is a huge timesaver. I can look up way more in an hour than I used to be able to :)

VR - I've done my fair share of research, too.

Angela said...

The male ducks are always the much prettier ones! A green head, pretty feathers, tall and slender, while "she" is just plain brown. But with our couple on the pond, she is the more daring one who comes to out terrace door and knocks at the window pane. And she is a clever bread crumbs catcher. So ask me if you want to write about ducks!
Thank you for your kind words about our volcano adventure! I hope it won`t last for 14 months again!

Carol Kilgore said...

Will do! My own personal Duck Lady.