Research: How Much Is Enough

Recently, one of my students asked how much research I do for a book before I start writing it.  When I write a book for Abdo through Red Line, I have to turn in an outline and Chapter 1 for approval.
At this point in the project, I do what I call “broad stroke” reading.  I want to get a feel for the topic and see what other authors have covered.  I want to make sure I cover what is essential and bring in some new material as well.  When I write an outline,  I include a chapter title and two or three points per chapter as well as the topics for the sidebars in each chapter.  My bibliography at this point is usually about 20 items long.
While I wait for a response, I do more of my research, looking for the details that I need to flesh out the next chapter.  When I think I have enough material, I start writing this chapter.  I write myself notes – ADD TO THIS PARAGRAPH or LOOK FOR A GOOD EXAMPLE – and keep on writing.  Sometimes I rough the whole chapter.  Sometimes I rough a section.  Then I do more research and fix that chapter or section.
This keeps both the writing and the research fresh for me.  If I’m tired of writing, I can give myself a research day.  If, while working on chapter 3, I found the info that I need for chapter 6, I just make a note on the outline.  “See X article or URL.”
I don’t have to do it this way. I can research the whole book before I start writing.  But I tend to get lost in the research which isn’t a bad thing because I LOVE doing the research.  I know people who can’t write a word until they have the whole thing researched.  But, like I said, I would never get started that way.  This is what works best for me.
–SueBE

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