This is the first of a new series featuring my responses to questions on social media.
Is there such a thing as over researching for your fiction novel?
Yes, but finding the right balance for you depends on a couple of things.
1. What genre are you writing, and who is your target audience?
Tom Clancy is well-known for his incredibly detailed descriptions of equipment, spy techniques, and so on, and he would have spent a lot of time researching all those details. (I’m sure part of the research involved knocking back a few beers with his contacts in the military and various government agencies; would that we all had research so fun!)
Clancy’s readers love and expect that amount of detail from him and other spy-thriller authors. However, not every audience is so enamored. Young adult books, for example, while they still benefit from verisimilitude and accurate details, don’t need such a plethora of description. There may be some exceptions with this target audience, particularly in fantasy novels, but generally you want more in the way of action and dialogue in YA.
2. Assess whether the research is helping or hindering your writing. Some of us (ahem, raises hand) tend to get so wrapped up in the research that it paralyzes our actual writing. We feel like we just can’t write until we have ALLLLLLL the details hammered out.
If that’s you, STOP. Put away your notes. Write 1,000 words RIGHT NOW without stopping to research or hunt through your notes. Write recklessly, passionately, dangerously. You can always go back to research and revise later.