Monday, August 31, 2009

Research - The Monster That Ate My Writing Time.

I'd like to give a warm welcome to my friend and Romance author, Sherilyn Winrose. Her topic for discussion is one that all writers can identify with: Research. I can get lost in research. I go to a site to check out a particular fact and end up spending hours following up on all sorts of added things. I do the same thing when I'm in the library and especially if it's historical research. You usually can find me sitting behind a wall of books reading or scribbling madly in my notebook

I'm glad I'm not the only writer who can get lost in research. Sherilyn discusses the distractions and the compulsion to add extra tidbits to the WIP while doing research.

I'm editing my historical romance, Escape to Love, at the moment. I never liked the ending. Time to clean it up and get it right.

What has surprised me during this edit is even after extensive, exhaustive research when I was writing it. I find myself researching more.

Mid-Nineteenth century U.S. history is a passion of mine. It's no surprise, when I surface from the multitude websites hours are sucked up. Not only is writing time gone, but then I find all sorts of little plot points begging to be written even though they aren't needed and would serve no purpose to anything except my ego.

Getting distracted at this particular stage is a nice, if not a weakly concealed break and completely unnecessary. How much is too much? Oh, when I find myself adding paragraphs just to pass on this or that tidbit to the reader. I know the derned tidbit is going to hit the cutting room floor even as I write it.

Yet, somehow I find it difficult to write to the point when I have all sorts of interesting historical tidbits floating in my mind scape.

It's not like I can sit down with non-writer friends and expound on all of this cool information I've learned. They tend to give me that, 'here we go again' expression. My family members suddenly remember chores which must be done right now, or find a slow spot to slip out. Sigh...

So what am I to do with all this information? Too much for the book, too little for a degree, and boring nonsense to my friends and family.

Why a sequel of course!

I no longer wonder why authors take one idea or group there of and create entire libraries out of them. Fabricating fiction to hit as real takes work and dedication. The likes of which I never fully appreciated until recently.

Given the number of works I have in progress it is very likely more research will be needed when I get back to writing, Return to Love.

Good thing I enjoy researching this time period.

How do you handle your research? Any hints you'd like to share on managing research time?

Sherilyn is a native North Dakotan, currently residing in Eastern Washington. She draws inspiration from the Western locations she has lived and visited. Romance with an edge is what she enjoys reading. So it's no surprise it's what she writes. Safe Harbor is her debut novel. When she’s not writing, Sherilyn enjoys spending time with her husband and their two grown children.

Visit Sherilyn at:

Blurb for Safe Harbor:

Are we ever truly clear of our past? Is there such a thing as Safe Harbor? Jenna Davidson escaped the drug-ridden streets, emerging as the person she always wanted to be.Her debut country CD, ‘After the Dark’, is due to be released the end of October. A stage persona is a price she’s willing to pay for the career she so desperately wants. The sky is wide open. Jenna couldn’t ask for more, until the life she'd worked so hard to leave behind comes to call.

Lt. Bryan Jamison’s determination to see his partner’s murder solved has brought him to this unassuming suburban home. The violet-eyed girl has eluded him for five long years. Bryan has no intention of letting anything or anyone get in the way. Kingpin Simon Dilante is going to prison.

Available on


~Sia McKye~ said...


Welcome to Over Coffee. Help yourself to the coffee bar. Have some nice warm muffins and scones. Warm chocolate Chip cookies--big ones nice and soft. Or you can by pass all those and go straight to the hardstuff--the bowl of chocolate kisses, lol!

Other Lisa said...

Howdy, Sia and Sherilyn!

I'm of the "Research by the Pound" school - there's never too much. A lot of it will never see the page, but the background you get from immersion I think is vital to creating that sense of verisimilitude that helps readers suspend their disbelief and go along for the ride.

Kat Sheridan said...

Oh, ACCCKKK, sucked up by the research demons! And yes, I tend to put it all in the story and then cut it back out. And when writing historicals, it's the million small details that can trip you up. Not just the clothes, or what they wore under them, or the actual historical events of the time. I can lose hours trying to figure out a standard meal of the time, whether or not a particular food would be available in that region, or even what material reading glasses would be made of. Thanks to friends who are as equally curious as me, and access to the internet, the research is so much easier--but even more distracting! Great topc, Sherilyn!

Sia, hope you're feeling better. You can keep all the chocolate, but I'll have the coffee, please. If I'm ever a guest, will you make peanut butter cookies instead? LOL!

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Good Morning,


I'm in desperate need for coffee this morning so please keep the mug full.


What I find most frustrating about research is when I can't find what I'm looking for. I'll spend hours online and in the library desperately searching because I know it has to be there. But alas, it's never found leading me to believe that somewhere along the way my mind misinterpreted something it heard or saw. Maybe I just thought that particular event or person should have been.
Who knows?

Elle J Rossi

Helen Ginger said...

I research for non-fiction books, so, like you, I do a ton of it. One article will lead you to another which will lead you to two more which will... Then I print it all out, highlight, tab sections, put it in a giant notebook, and so on and so on. No one wants to hear about mid-19th century US history? Trying telling family fascinating tidbits about Automotive Technology or Biomedical Equipment Technicians. Ha!

I like doing research, but, man, you can get lost in the process for hours! I definitely agree with you.

Straight From Hel

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat,Peanutbutter cookies are a favorite of mine. When I feature you I'll have Congratulations Kat on every damn one of them!

Judi Fennell said...

I love this line: "serve no purpose to anything except my ego."

Thank goodness you recognize it and own it. I just read a book where the author went into a detailed description of what bullet casings were.

Um, hello? Anyone who's ever seen a crime show knows what they are and even if you didn't, it wasn't important to the story. There was no "special casing" that pinpointed the bullet and/or type of gun to make the story work at the end. Nothing.

Just the author's "look what I found out when I was doing research" and it stuck out so badly that I still remember it.

I love getting lost in the research - as long as my deadline isn't looming (and, really, isn't that oxymoronic? Once you have a deadline, it's ALWAYS looming...)

readwriteandedit said...

Research can certainly distract, but it's necessary in so many ways. And I figure anything I learn can be used for something. Whether it turns up as background or in a character's speech or is merely used as a takeoff point for plot, research material is useful.

And I guess we not only want to be accurate, but we love knowledge for its own sake. A vast number of fields appeal to us, so we soak up all we can. And if our own writing is slowed by all this research, we know we can make use of it somehow. I believe we're all optimists of a kind.

Good article, ladies.

Jill Lynn said...

I say, research on. The more you know, the more confident you'll be writing about a particular subject/era. That confidence will show in your writing, whether you use an interesting fact you learned or not.

sherilynwinrose said...

Good Morning Everyone,

Sia it's so good to be here with you. The mocha is to die for, in case anyone is interested. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one with the research monster problem.

I'm doing final edits on Escape to Love now and will shortly be sending it off to the publisher, Second Wind. All of my work has come together very well, if I do say so myself. As I said, I'll use the rest for the sequel, Return to Love.

Judi, I hate getting wrapped up in paragraphs of details when I'm reading a book. So when I do it, the result slaps me in the face. smile

When I can't find what I'm looking for it drives me nuts! Usually if I let it go for a couple of days something will surface to lead me where I wanted to go. "I KNEW IT!" or "Well damn." are generally the reaction.

Helen wrote; Trying telling family fascinating tidbits about Automotive Technology or Biomedical Equipment Technicians. Ha!~

My husband and son would love for me to converse on Auto Tech more than I'm able. Biomed? Husband would love it. hehe

If I get called on something I want to be able to back it up. And it does happen on occasion. And yes Beth I love information and knowledge for their own sake. Information Floozy about sums it up.

VA said...

Sherilyn being a 12 tabs open kinda girl I get your problem. Personally, for me it is a way to put off writing. Yeah...just one more thing, how does that really work? Oh well.

Safe Harbor is a fascinating premise. Is there one thing that really stuck out in the research department while writing it?

Kat Sheridan said...

Sia, I truly laughed aloud at your peanut butter cookie remark! Let's hope the publishing gods are listening and that someday I'll have something to talk about on your blog besides how much I enjoy all the authors you interview!

ptbertram said...

Hi, Sherilyn! I have notebooks and notebooks full of research I collected in my pre-internet days. I used just a fraction of that information in my books, and since I no longer want to write the same type of books -- telling the unwelcome truths -- I have to find another way to use the information. Blogging, perhaps.

Sheila Deeth said...

I'm researching mathematicians. It's eating my writing and my reading time. But then I get distracted... coffee...

aries18 said...

Good afternoon Ladies,

Great interview and a great subject. I know it hits right at the heart of so many writers, both pubbed and not. I could research forever, I should find a job that pays me to jump in with both feet and only surface for meals. But then it would be a JOB!

I like being able to know what I'm writing about and immersion is a sure way to really know your time frame or subject matter.

Going overboard with the details is the trap that is so hard to avoid in first drafts. All that stuff should hit the cutting room floor at edit time.

Enjoyed the coffee and chocolate, especially the virtual kind, no calories!

Have a great day!

sherilynwinrose said...

VA, Safe Harbor didn't require much research at all.
It's a contemporary. Set in my native North Dakota and Seattle, where we lived for a few years the social and actual settings came naturally. A smattering of research on small aircraft and a few other details was all it required.

Escape to Love was an entirely different can of worms. Cassie is escaping a bad marriage and taking her step-sons with her. Cane resigned his commission in the Union army to look for his scattered family after the Civil War. She has his dead sisters boys, and he wants them too. Sparks fly when they discover they want each other as well.

Women didn't just walk away from marriages in the Nineteenth century. Get custody of children? No. Lots of loop hole finding there, which made for some amazing plot twists.

Research is indeed an easy excuse to put off writing. So are blogs dash it all.

Jamie C. said...

I've gotten lost in research more than once and usually end up researching something unrelated to what I was origianlly looking for. This then leads to me getting a new idea for yet another WIP, which obviously needs my attention, and I often forget about the first WIP which I was researching in the first place. It's all a vicious cycle for me, but I love every minute of it. ADHD much?

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