29 October 2014

NaNoPrep: Research Before or After?

With NaNoWriMo fast approaching, it's about that time when most writers planning for it (or maybe just me...) go into panic mode. Have I thought this story out? Do I have everything I need to get an entire novel written in just one month? What if I don't? Am I doomed to fail? Should I even start?

I know I'm not 100% prepared to start writing this novel. I don't think I'm even 50% prepared. I think this is equally caused by the fact that I just decided that I was going to do NaNo, and let's be honest, I'm a procrastinator. I've got the basic story planned out in my mind, and I've thought over several different scenes, but I think there's still a lot about this story that I haven't figured out.

I'm not all that worried because I'm a pantser (I'm assuming all of you know what that means :P). I just have some sort of natural aversion to doing outlines. I usually don't plan what I'm going to write. I just write whatever scene is pestering my brain the most, then as I write more and more, start to piece everything together and figure out what's missing. Is it the most organized method? Definitely not, but I know what works for me.

What I've come to realize is that every book requires at least a little bit of research. If you're writing a realistic novel set in the real world, then you want to make sure all of your details are accurate. For this particular novel I'm planning on writing, I don't have to do a ridiculous amount of research, but I'm a bit worried that I don't have enough time to figure out everything before I start writing. So what should I do?

There are plenty of options, of course. I could get all of my research done before I start writing. I could research what I need as I'm writing it. Or I could just put all of the research on hold, write out the novel, then check the accuracy once it's done and fix any mistakes. Obviously the first two seem the most logical, mostly because if you write something without doing your research, you may find that what you wrote is inaccurate and you may have to rewrite the entire thing. But when it comes to something like NaNo, where you're trying to get as much writing done as possible in a short amount of time, you also don't want the research to trip you up and take up a huge amount of time.

I haven't quite figured it out yet. Most of the research I need to do involves the setting. I still have a few days to get my research done, but I also want to focus on figuring out a bit more of the story line, and--oh, I don't know, naming my characters. I also think I could just develop the setting the way I picture it and it won't be terribly inaccurate, or at least have any huge errors that I can't easily fix once I get all of my research done. I just don't want to be in the position where I finish an entire novel then find out it could never happen the way I wrote it. I don't think this could happen, but you never know.

I guess I'm going to take it one day at a time. And I've still got three days to get some research done.


  1. Just wanted to stop by and thank you for dropping by the Alleyway to comment.

    Best of luck with that research and NaNo. Unfortunately, I won't be partaking this year. Over this past year, I've slowly morphed from panster to planner.

  2. Three days? That's TONZ of time. ;)

    I'm writing a piece in a historical setting, so yeah, research. I tend to research as I go. The plot is outlined, the characters are solid in my head, and I've been reading time period books for the last couple weeks, so theoretically I should be ready to go, right? Guaranteed I will still stop half way through a scene and spend the next two hours researching some small aspect. Goes with the territory, right?

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

  3. Despite any best intentions to do all the research ahead, stuff just about always pops up as you go that will require more research. What's nice about that is research is a nice "break" from drafting that usually recharges the creative batteries by giving you more material. Do what you can ahead, be prepared to take research breaks as needed.

  4. Are they physics (can this actually happen) or history (did this really happen) related? Do you know the specifics of what you need to research? Then cramming your research into the last 3 days is probably a good idea. If not, then you can throw in little notes here and there inside brackets, and hit the research books after you've achieved your word count.

  5. Well, I'm a plotter, so I can't deal with writing without doing research first...BUT for a panster I think that's probably the way to go. Or, better yet, take the middle road. I think Loni's suggestion is right on the money :)

  6. I think your solution regarding putting the research on hold is the best one; I haven't done NaNoWriMo due to schedule conflicts, but I've heard that the point is to get at least the first draft of a novel done, and the first draft can be revised later.

  7. I'm a pantser too, I agree with what Loni said. Plus once you have achieved that days word count, you could then do a bit as needed. :)