Research Is Half the Fun

I don’t have much time to read any more. Which stinks. I buy books and put them in stacks and sneak one out here and again. Sometimes they grab me like big octopuss tentacles and drag me in and won’t let me go until I’m done. But I frequently feel guilty when I’m reading because I should be writing. And if not writing, then playing with the kids or weeding the garden or running errands or, heaven forbid, cleaning the house. So all this recreational reading that I want to do sits and sits, waiting for me to have time.

But there’s a kind of reading that doesn’t make me feel guilty, and that is research. I always need to research and so lately, I’ve been grabbing up some books on stuff. Some on wounds and body decay, some on forensics and police procedure (they don’t really lock into anything I’m specifically working on, but I was thinking they might have an effect on a couple of things I’ve been thinking about). I’ve got some research on Jane Austen for a class I’m teaching in the fall, and the biography I’m reading has some great stuff I’ll be able to use in my Crosspointe books. I’ve also got Parasite Rex, which is about parasites and sounds like a lot of fun.

Reading research is both interesting, and it doesn’t make me feel guilty. Because I could use it sometime and therefore it’s really work. And it isn’t cleaning my house (toilet) which would be a dreadful thing to have to do. So I’m being productive, instead of being just entertained, which apparently would be a terrible thing requiring me to feel guilty.

So let me ask you, what research are you doing right now? What fabulous resource have you found and what do you love about it? Do share! I might want to go hunt it up. I love research. Share yours please!

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  1. 1. Adam Heine

    Wikipedia’s my primary resource. Even where it’s inaccurate, it still often represents what most people think is true. More often than not, that’s good enough for my fiction.

    I’m not doing much research right now, but I did learn some cool things about BASE jumping and about how Burma got as bad as it is.

  2. 2. Phiala

    All of it! I love doing research. Currently: a first-hand account (with pictures!) of the Spanish conquest of Mexico; a book on occupied cities in World War II; a fifteenth-century astrology manual; some papers on geomancy; a book on birdsong; and a textile history book. Plus a volume on multivariable geostatistics, and various other journal articles.

    Those aren’t all for the same project: I might have a bit of a commitment problem. But it would be a wicked cool project, don’t you think? And the geostatistics is for for work. Note to self: figure out a story idea involving geostatistics that wouldn’t send the audience screaming.

    I *love* doing research. The best part of writing is that I get to research *anything*!

  3. 3. Mindy Klasky

    These days, I do most of my research by snatching trustworthy information off the Internet, in the brief seconds when I realize that I need it. (That’s mostly a reflection of the type of novels I’m writing – contemporary romantic comedy with a paranormal twist.)

    When you read PARASITE REX (a *great* book, and I had the pleasure of hearing the author speak when it came out), you *must* find a couple of hours to read Scott Westerfeld’s PEEPS (a YA vampire book), to see how he harnesses the information in PARASITE REX. Brilliantly done!

  4. 4. Merry

    I’m researching Georgian history at the moment, and I’ve just got hold of a gorgeous map book of 18thC London (that’s actually big enough to be legible). My friend has also jsut come back from the Hay literature festival and brought me some books to add to the research collection: The works of the Earl of Rochester; the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (basically slang that was used in that period and a little earlier); and a reprint of the first edition of the one-inch Ordnace Survey of England & Wales: London & Windsor which covers the area in c. 1822.
    Those are on my TBR pile; my actual reading at the moment is English Society in the 18th Century by Roy Porter. Good stuff!

  5. 5. Merry

    Ordnance – gah! I can spell; honest.

  6. 6. Colleen

    I adore doing research, and since I tend to write alt histories I get to do all of it I desire. (Well, perhaps not *all*, else I’d never get anything else done.)

    I’ve just picked up three books on various women in Ancient Egypt, a lovely set of The Gods of the Egyptians (which, though dated, is still helpful), and a handful of other “pop” resources on Egypt.

    One of the things that I always buy when I research is a travel guide. It’s cheaper than a plane ticket, and I use the images and descriptions to ground me in my scenery.

  7. 7. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    Adam: I frequently start with Wikipedia and then go from there. At least it will give me some basic vocabulary and ideas for what I’m looking for.

    Mindy: I LOVE Peeps. That’s why I picked up Paradise Rex.

    Merry! I have the Dicionary of the Vulgar Tongue. But it sounds like you’ve got some lovely lovely books! I’d like to read the works of the EArl of Rochester

  8. 8. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    Colleen: I’d love to get a look of the Gods of the Egyptians. I’ll have to look for it. sounds like very fun research.

  9. 9. Tara Maya

    I love research. I devote hours and volumes too it. For quickie details, I’ll search online, but for world building, I do pretty extensive reading in the nonfiction section.

    Parasite Rex is a terrific book. If you haven’t read it yet, also check out Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation.

  10. 10. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    Tara Maya: That sounds like a very cool book Going to look it up now . . .

  11. 11. Jace

    My most recent research was on Nanite Technology for an sf series, but I wanted to merely echo with you a little. I do enjoy research merely because it means I get to learn something I didn’t know. Something I’ve started doing is subscribing to a blog called Interesting Thing of the Day, and it brings to me Reader all sorts of interesting things (some more than others) on all kinds of things. I never know what topic will pop up from day to day, which gets me a little random insight into all sorts of things, that I might then work into a book or use as fodder for more research.

    I have decided on one method to not feel critical of my reading, which I have ohh soo much to do this summer. By making sure my kids are in the summer reading programs at the library, I can be in the adult one and we can all read together!

    Oh, and another bonus is that since I am teaching high school, I have a great excuse to read stuff like Twilight, or the latest Neil Shusterman books!

  12. 12. mikaela

    I love research too. The book that I read most recently, and it inspired my latest idea, is Svenska Folks├Ągner by Bengt af Klintberg. It is in Swedish, though :)

  13. 13. matt g

    I agree with Adam about Wikipedia being a good source because even when it isn’t completely factual, it represents most people’s understanding of something.

    I’ve been researching types of codices and libraries, both theoretical and real. The Voynich Manuscript and the Library of Babel are a couple to name. I love learning about this stuff. I think most writers are natural students and we enjoy sharing what we know about through an interesting setting or situational lens.

Author Information

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Diana Pharaoh Francis has written the fantasy novel trilogy that includes Path of Fate, Path of Honor and Path of Blood. Path of Fate was nominated for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award. Recently released was The Turning Tide, third in her Crosspointe Chronicles series (look also for The Cipher and The Black Ship). In October 2009, look for Bitter Night, a contemporary fantasy. Diana teaches in the English Department at the University of Montana Western, and is an avid lover of all things chocolate. Visit site.

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