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Other
05-26-2011, 02:32 AM
I'm working on the first draft of a novel that is unexpectedly going to include crime, the police, etc. I know next to nothing about these topics and doubt Law and Order counts as research.

I know the basics of what is going to happen. Do I need to stop writing this novel until I get the research done or it is okay to do that after the first draft is finished?

VoireyLinger
05-26-2011, 02:46 AM
Given that what you know will influence plot, and you say you know nothing on the topics, I'd say research first. It wouldn't be good if a critical plot point was later discovered to be invalid.

If you had a pretty decent idea of how things work or details can be fudged for plot, then I'd say write first and then research and tighten things up.

And I add the disclaimer: This works for me, but it might not for you. Take all advice with a grain of salt.

annsquared
05-26-2011, 02:47 AM
My vote is for 'Before'. Unless, of course, you're open to re-writing your entire ms if your research reveals the plot is based off erroneous assumptions. :)

It might not happen, but why take the chance? You've got to do the research at some point, why not do it first and (potentially) save yourself a lot of extra work?

gothicangel
05-26-2011, 03:04 AM
Because I'm writing a historical I did quite a bit of research before I started - also extremely lucky to be within traveling distance from the Antonine Wall.

Really, for me the first draft is about getting the story down on paper, but I still find myself on Googling weird, and really cool things.

When it comes to the second draft there are things I need to do more research on though.

Jamesaritchie
05-26-2011, 03:06 AM
Just before, and during. There's no reason to put off writing for research, and waiting until after can cause severe problems.

Linda Adams
05-26-2011, 03:30 AM
I think it depends on your story. I know if I research before or even during the first draft, I'm going to waste my time. It's better for me to do the research after I have a finished story and know what I need. But I also have one story where I needed to do a little prelim research because I needed the historical timeline.

jaksen
05-26-2011, 03:48 AM
omg start writing and research as you go. I've written many a story with crime elements, police procedure, etc., and that's what I've done. When I'm not sure, i call an expert or google things (if it's an easy question.) The important thing is to write.

feather
05-26-2011, 03:52 AM
Is it cheating to say "during"? Because that's what I do. Either remind myself in bracketed notes or just hit google whenever I stumble over something I need to know.

JayMan
05-26-2011, 03:58 AM
Before, during, and after... depending on how linked the material is to the plot. Anything that's absolutely essential to the plot, I do before, or during (as I come to it). Anything tangential or not critical to the plot (ie, details that can be altered later as necessary), I do during and after.

Margarita Skies
05-26-2011, 04:02 AM
Before, during, and after... depending on how linked the material is to the plot. Anything that's absolutely essential to the plot, I do before, or during (as I come to it). Anything tangential or not critical to the plot (ie, details that can be altered later as necessary), I do during and after.


I do my research before I start writing the scene that involves something I know very little or nothing about.

dangerousbill
05-26-2011, 04:11 AM
I know the basics of what is going to happen. Do I need to stop writing this novel until I get the research done or it is okay to do that after the first draft is finished?


Don't stop writing. Research is a bottomless well that can go on forever. Most changes in the story made necessary by rewrites can be added later. Just make sure that the basic elements of your plot are covered.

Research in advance of writing, to support the basic plot and structure, is good. When setting out to write 'Ancestors of Star', I read extensively on the cultures of Southwest Native tribes before outlining the story. There were a few facts that, if different, could have derailed the original story plan altogether. But detailed research can come after writing. The writing will suggest the research that needs to be done.

dangerousbill
05-26-2011, 04:17 AM
I'm working on the first draft of a novel that is unexpectedly going to include crime, the police, etc.


A couple of friends of mine have found police departments to be receptive to writers doing research.

In Orlando, the police actually run a little course for writers, journalists, community workers, etc, who want to know more about police procedures and street level police work. This may be true of other cities, too.

scope
05-26-2011, 04:31 AM
BEFORE!!!

ElizaL
05-26-2011, 05:08 AM
I research as I go -- that way I know what I'm looking for, and I can better place useful tidbits of information that I find along the way.

Loop
05-26-2011, 06:11 AM
I'm working on the first draft of a novel that is unexpectedly going to include crime, the police, etc. I know next to nothing about these topics and doubt Law and Order counts as research.

I know the basics of what is going to happen. Do I need to stop writing this novel until I get the research done or it is okay to do that after the first draft is finished?

I think you want to go in with as much knowledge as you can get when writing the first draft. But be warned, you may find yourself making dramatic changes anyway by the end.

jdm
05-26-2011, 06:17 AM
Having to re-write because you find out that something in your story is not accurate, is a huge pain in the backside, especially when you become emotionally invested in the story as you originally wrote it. Do your research ahead of time because there will always be additional research that needs to be done anyway. Trying to put out fires becomes overwhelming if there are too many all at once.

Arcadia Divine
05-26-2011, 06:24 AM
My vote is for before, but don't stop researching when you start writing the story. Although I've heard that researching too much is possible. I think you should find the balance between research and actual writing.

dogfacedboy
05-26-2011, 06:31 AM
Minimal research before. Just enough that you're not hopelessly lost, but not so much that your project becomes more research than writing. Limit yourself to a specif number of sources. Learn what you can, then write. In my opinion, the more research you do at the beginning, the more focused you'll be on working through the facts than you will be on writing your story.

After your first draft, then research like a maniac and tweak what you've written to make up for any discepancies.

shadowwalker
05-26-2011, 06:52 AM
If I know major areas of the story need research, I do that as I'm first getting started. Then, as other stuff comes up in the writing, I do the basic research (enough so I know I can keep writing) and then get more details as I go along.

Ryan David Jahn
05-26-2011, 08:37 AM
I think you should do big-picture research before. That's the stuff that will have an effect how you tell the story. Then, as questions come up during the writing process, you can do detail research as needed.

EDIT: I could have simply quoted the post above mine. Same approach I have.

Other
05-26-2011, 08:52 AM
Sounds like I'd better start researching so I'll be ready when all the law enforcement stuff comes into play (in a couple of chapters). Thanks everyone!

Kelsey
05-26-2011, 09:29 AM
I love researching, and unfortunately, it too easily becomes a form of procrastination for me. Since most of what I write is historical, I research just enough before to form and map my story, but research deeper and more specifically afterwards.

estyles
05-26-2011, 10:31 PM
I'd say that the answer is to balance them. I think on your first draft, you're just about equally wasting your time if you're writing a story you know nothing about and have to rewrite later as if you're chasing off to find the exact brand and shade of dye used for police officers' uniforms in the city where the story is set.

Go for the happy medium: research the big stuff that's going to effect the story's basic groundwork--plot and characterization and all that--and leave researching the niggling details that probably don't really make that much of a difference until after you have a draft of the story down.

Susan Littlefield
05-27-2011, 12:58 AM
I'm working on the first draft of a novel that is unexpectedly going to include crime, the police, etc. I know next to nothing about these topics and doubt Law and Order counts as research.

I know the basics of what is going to happen. Do I need to stop writing this novel until I get the research done or it is okay to do that after the first draft is finished?

I research as I go.

Esmeralda
05-27-2011, 01:21 AM
I research before and then continue as I write. Don't want to get anything wrong.