Doing research is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing a book. I get to look into all kinds of areas, learn things I never thought of learning before. It’s also seductive and tricky. Research tempts me to spend more time on the internet, following just one more link, one more, one…you get the idea. I can use up my whole day tracking down something so obscure I’ll never need it in a million years.
For instance, if you want to know when winter wheat can be harvested in Missouri, aim for mid-June to July. That is the only piece of information I needed to know. But what I also now know are the large number and kinds of crops that can be grown in Idaho, the difference between corn for grain and corn for silage, the three different kinds of wheat that can be grown, game birds like the pheasant and quail and the unusually-named Prairie Chicken–my list could go on and on. Is Idaho featured in my new book? Not at all.
Every piece of information always leads to more on the web, and it can suck up my writing time unbelievably fast. And it can crowd my brain with trivia that takes up space I need for thinking. So my advice to any of you writers out there is to watch yourself when it comes to doing research, watch that you don’t get sucked into a whirling vortex of bits and bytes that leaves your mind crammed full of–well, hang on now. Before I completely come down on this shotgun type of research, let me say that I just might use that Prairie Chicken in my book because it is such a cool name and may actually be located where my characters live. (It’s a bird like a grouse.) Yes, research can be tricky.