Research is Evil


We’re talking about the joys of research this week, and I can simply direct your attention to the picture accompanying this entry as evidence of the joy of research. Mmmmm. Books. However, there’s a seedy underbelly to research wherein you end up with shelves like this. This is the “Occult Wall” in my office–just the books that reference the occult history of the world.

You can go too far with research. You can wander off into the wilderness and never find your way back, which is detrimental when you have a book deadline.

Most of the Occult Wall was put together while working on Lightbreaker and Heartland, the first two volumes in the Codex of Souls (also from Night Shade Books). More than a few of these books I’ve not read all the way through, mainly because I bought them when I was “doing” research for the book. When the actual plot of the book went in a different direction, well, I still had the research material. That shelf there–the second one down from the top on the far left–none of that made it into the final draft.

For Earth Thirst, I wanted to not stress my bank account unnecessarily, and so I purposefully did only the minimum research necessary to keep the plot moving. Once I got a draft of the book done, only then did I go allow myself to do the heavy research. I still only ended up reading half of the books I picked up, but this time I only bought a single shelf’s worth instead of an entire bookcase. In some ways, this mirrors the respective protagonists of the aforementioned books: Markham lives in a very symbolic world, one that is rich with layers of inference and meaning; Silas is much more pragmatic, only bothering with concrete details that get him from point A to point B.

Midway through writing Earth Thirst, I got a call from Night Shade asking about a series title. “Are we doing a series?” I asked, and they just laughed. They know my predilection for research, you see. They remember the conversation we had one night at a convention where I rattled off the very explicit ten volume plan for the CODEX books, even though they had only bought two. After we settled on The Arcadian Conflict, I yanked about thirty thousand words out of the manuscript for Earth Thirst because, well, it’s plot that can be saved for later.

The other half of the books on my Arcadia research shelf are about dirt. Who knew there were so many books written about dirt?

That phrase comes up regularly during research. Who knew? More than one book owes its genesis to that phrase. Research used to scare me; now, I fear it for a different reason entirely. I have a book to finish. It has a defined scope. It’s supposed to come in at one hundred thousand words. Research can upset all of that.

How many books are there in The Arcadian Conflict? I’m not sure. But let me do a little research and get back to you.

[This post originally ran on The Night Bazaar on December 14th, 2012.]