One of the challenges I’ve been finding about researching the setting is that I need a lot of information, but at the same time set up boundaries to help me identify when I’ve gotten enough. Though my tendency would be to not do enough research, this might be useful for someone who does too much research, in an effort to learn “everything” about something. My research material has tended to fall into five categories:
1. I already know this information. There’s no sense in me researching something that I already know, or for that matter, already found through existing research. This one is being noted because, in terms of researching papers, it is important to getting multiple sources for a piece of information. I still remember from somewhere that you should get three sources for everything. But, with a novel, if I find that the average temperature of a place is 75-80 degress F all year round, researching other sources to confirm this is not a good use of time.
2. I’m never going to use this information. I do a lot of skimming to get a quick determination on this one. Since I’m basing my setting on a real setting, there are some things I’m not going to use because I’m doing something different. Or it doesn’t apply. Or, for that matter, it’s not something that interests me.
3. Maybe … In the course of the research, I’ve run across information that catches my eye. I don’t see a reason to have it in the book, and yet, there’s something about it that I like. These I record because I might find an opportunity to use it later that I haven’t thought up yet.
4. Probably. For the information that I’m very likely to use, but will probably need to do more research. I’ve been marking my index cards with the story possibilities. I’ve been surprised by this category because just finding information like this and mapping it to the story has made me think about changing things in the story.
5. Cool! Anything that I know will be in the story. A lot of these I knew going in and just needed more information
I think the toughest areas to deal with are the first two: What I don’t need. It’s easy to get something “just in case,” so I have to weigh everything in terms of if I’m going to use it in the story or if I think it might later find a home in the story. So it’s important to read the paragraph containing the information first and think about it for a moment before writing it down rather than running into the information and dashing it off and jumping on to the next one.