Recently I read a blog post about how much research you need to do before you start writing a piece of historic fiction. The author of the post had been researching the year in which her story was set (1939) for a full year. She wondered when she would have enough research to start writing. The advice that she was given was to research until she had a sense of place and time. She was told to research until she had a feel for the world and then start writing. She could, after all, do additional research as she wrote the story.
This advice is solid but it doesn’t just apply to historical fiction. Whether you are writing research-based fiction or nonfiction, at some point you have to make the decision to quit reading and start writing. The trick is to find enough information to inform your writing without using research as an excuse not to write. I say this because it is so easy to do. “No, no. I’m not done doing my research. I can’t start writing yet.”
Even with 7 nonfiction books under my belt, I found myself doing this with Duchess and my most recent project. Fortunately, I’m accountable to Duchess who gently nudged and pushed and prodded. I finished the outline Saturday. I have to incorporate her tweaks but I’m going to start writing today.
My personal preference is to read until I am finding nothing new and information is repeating itself. I want to know the information so well that I recognize incorrect data for what it is. “No, that can’t be right. It contradicts this and this and that.” I’ve reached the point that I can question the accuracy of my sources. If I was working on this book alone, I’d do a bit more reading before I got started. Fortunately, Duchess is a subject matter expert on black feminism. In spite of Duchess’s expertise, I know that I will be doing more reading. That’s just a part of writing based on research.