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Just Say No to Research

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Or, at least when it’s not the right time for research.

We’ve previously discussed the seductive allure of research when you’re writing. It’s easy to get sucked into a rabbit hole trying to find some little tidbit of information and suddenly you’ve lost a whole day.

That happened to me last night. I was looking for one specific quote from a musician. I couldn’t remember where I had read (or heard) this quote. I googled the musician and the quote. I ended up on YouTube. Then I ended up on a variety of torrent filesharing sites. Then I was back to Google. Then I was sifting through a stack of magazines here in the house. I’m proud of my research skills and so I’m going to find that damned quote. I’m on a bunch of messageboards related to the band. I’m back to VH1 trying to buy an episode of a documentary. 

And suddenly it’s 3:30am. I’ve just lost four hours and I have nothing to show for it.

So let this be a warning to you. If you’re working on the first draft, if your bit of needed info isn’t absolutely, positively crucial to the entire basis of your story, then skip it and move on. In my case, this little quote was just a small bit of refinement. My story is completely valid and can be complete without it. The quote would just be nice to have.

I shouldn’t be devoting hours and hours to “nice to haves.” Not right now. Not at this point in the process. So be careful of the detours that research can offer. Don’t get so caught up in finding some esoteric data for your story that you don’t actually write the story.