When Do I Put Down the Research and Pick Up the Pen?

“Research means that you don’t know, but are willing to find out.”

Charles F. Kettering

Comfort zones. It’s all about maintaining the comfort zone. A state of being I haven’t had the luxury of living in these past two years. Does that sound familiar? Comfort zones didn’t really exist before 2019 (especially if you work retail and customers love getting in your face) and they definitely don’t exist after 2019. Right now, it’s all about maintaining the status quo.

Well I, for one, am done maintaining the quos in my life. It’s time to move on from this stagnation I’ve been in since 2020. And I don’t mean just with my writing. But, for the purpose of this blog post, let’s stick with that.

Earlier this year I put up quite the confessional: I Wrote Nothing For Nearly A Year. In that post I expressed my frustrations with procrastination and self-doubt. Since then I’ve deactivated even more online accounts, so what’s my excuse now? Most definitely self-doubt.

I think that’s the main reason I have such trouble pushing myself out of the research phase and into the plotting phase. I adore coming up with scenes, visuals and world-building. When I write historical adventures, I rely heavily on actual events, facts and the like. Finally, when I work on developing my characters, I take a very logical approach with KM Weiland’s 100+ QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU INTERVIEW YOUR CHARACTER.

Doing all the prep work its all well and good, but at what point do I put that aside and write the first scene for Project Star & Sea?

Two words: self. doubt.

Well, not entirely self doubt. I just love my research, and wish I could do it full time. Alas, that option isn’t in the cards for me, so I’ll stick with it as a hobby for my novels.

I’ve always been a planner. (There’s absolutely no way I can “pants” my way fully through a story without first doing some form of research). Maybe not so much as a kid or a teen, but definitely in my 20s and 30s. I learned the hard way – many times – what not to do with things like planning, finances, preparedness and so forth. I’m not perfect. There are still plenty of things for me to learn.

Which is why, I think, I enjoy living eternally in the Novel Research Phase. I fear my own self-doubt. And I fear those readers who’ll know when I got something historically or scientifically incorrect. Yup – you’ve figured me out. I get stuck on the tiny details.

Old habits die hard. And, while I told myself at the end of 2021 that when I picked up Project Star & Sea again that I was going to go slow, I wonder now if that was the best of decisions. I already have a few chapters written, but have yet to solidify any major plot point.

Plotting is my downfall. I think it always will be.

For now, I’ll stick with the research phase. Let’s face it; Project Star & Sea is an absolute beast of a story that’s always always in my head. Have I figured out how to get to the midpoint before the climax yet? Nope. Hopefully that light-bulb moment will come. Perhaps…with more research?

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen and to think what nobody else has thought.”

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi