Those of you who know me, know that I’m not a researcher – in fact, if anything, I’m what I would call an anti-researcher. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t KNOW things, because I do. As an avid reader of novels and non-fiction, of newspapers and magazines, as an avid watcher of movies and documentaries and news programs, I know a whole lot of things. But what I don’t do is say “okay, I’m going to write about X” and then research it. That would ruin my process, ruin my writing. It would make me a different writer – and not a better one.
But what I do is write about something that’s obviously – or not so obviously – been percolating in my mind for a long time. And because of what I write – about relationships, about people, about life – I’m not so worried about getting the details exactly right although those details might have been buried somewhere in my head for a long time. I’m more careful to get the feelings right because that’s what important in the type of story I write. Whether those feelings are sorrow or joy or passion, that’s what I focus on.
But I do, occasionally, do research – but it’s the kind of research I refer to as spot research. What does that mean? It means I might need to know the name of a street (though usually I make them up), the type of car (although, now that I think about it, I never need to know this because I love cars and know them pretty well), or the correct spelling of name or a particular date. It’s the kind of research that I can do it a quick internet search – and when I say quick, I mean less than two minutes.
But for the book I’m working on now, I’d have to say that I’ve done a little more than that. Though, again, I’ve done that little more because it’s an excuse to go to one of my favorite places – Granville Island Market – and an excuse to spend time doing something I love – browsing the market. And, of course, doing a little shopping along the way. Because, honestly, I know all the things I need to know about this character and her life and her work – all this research is just an excuse.
Because this book is about things I already know really well – the restaurant business and the effect of the recession on small businesses. One of my characters is a florist. I’ve given her a shop in the Market, and she’s preparing some centerpieces and arrangements and plants for a restaurant. And one of the characters owns a restaurant – not something I need to do any research on as I have many friends who work in restaurants, I eat out all the time, and have friends who manage or own restaurants. It’s part of the conversation of my life.
That’s the way my writing works – I write about things I know or things I can make up. Any research I do has ALWAYS been done (without knowing I’m doing it) long before I sit down to write about it.
Every writer works in a different way – this is what works for me.