Research Overload

I think I am suffering from research overload. I fear my ambitions have been to high, too broad, too much for one simpleton to take.

If I could have an anxiety attack based on a book not yet written, I would be having one now. Have I taken on too much already? Is my ambition way too big for my size 6W shoes?

I am the one who tells you to dream big. To take chances. To write what you want to write. Yet I find my thoughts, my task, overwhelming. And I’ve barely started.

Writing about visiting a place you’ve never been and probably never will be takes more discipline than making up a world. When you make up a place where elves live or Merry ‘ol England in the 15th century your mind can play with what it wants.

But when you want to visit a real place in real time, it’s not as easy. You must be accurate, you must be realistic, even if your intention for a story is fiction.

Plus it is so easy to be led astray by a thousand places you wish to visit.  Do you base your character’s visit on where you would like to go? Or where destiny takes them? Do you go big? Do you go small? Do you have encounters in gardens or museums? Libraries or churches? If your character (in my case, me) wants to visit the haunts of famous people, which restaurant do you visit? Which cabaret? Which art museum?

Do you search the Internet and find articles like The ten Paris streets you just have to walk down or  A Walk Around Paris? Or do you just pick a starting place and figure out where you’re going from there?

I am so easily influenced by Paris. Any foreign place, really. Places I’ve never been, places I’ve dreamed of, places where my dreams start and end. I ask myself where do I really want to go, what do I really want to see? What do I want my book’s character to learn from her adventure?

On top of that, I find it hard to separate what I as a 67-year-old woman who will never visit Paris would want to see versus the 67-year-old woman I’m sending there through my book. A thousand answers come to mind. I can’t seem to sort through all of them.

This is the problem of a pretzelly mind. A creative mind touched with a bit of A.D.D. and old age.

Maybe I would be better off writing a simple love story that takes place in my own back yard or some make-believe town. That way I don’t have to guess what the streets look like; what the people sound like, what the local bakery or bistro smells like.

I’m not giving up yet, though. While I cannot say I love a challenge, it’s too early in the game to give up. For I know the payoff with be a big one. The biggest challenge of my writing career.

Tell me — do you go through any  madness like this before you start a new project? Do you fight to keep a hold of your crazy dream, or do you merely divert your energy to finding another project?

14 thoughts on “Research Overload

  1. You know, I’ve thought of that too. And I have been purposely not thinking of the people connections because I don’t want to overthink everything ahead of time. I am already loosing the surprise factor on myself because I’m thinking too much of where the story is going. I do like the unexpected appearance card idea — everything I’ve been thinking about is pretty predictable. What are you writing about these days?


  2. Maybe you could write your possible locations and actions on cards, and pull some at random? If your character met Professor Plum in the kitchen instead of the (expected) library, you would have a whole new episode. You wouldn’t have to use the combinations but I bet they would spark some ideas.
    And I know about the research! I research so much, and then after a while I end up thinking, Oh, everybody knows this anyway, and I don’t even write it up. 🙂


  3. I like the idea of looking at lots of pictures of where I want to go. After all, I am hoping it’s the story that people enjoy, not the fine details of the surroundings. I think I overthink. Thanks for helping me out.


  4. I know that soon I will get to the write-the-damn-book stage…you can only do research so far. I could write, research, write some more, on and on through the end — which I haven’t figured out yet. Other books I’ve written were just straight fiction, made up worlds with some research about the times. I might be thinking too much. Like “what if someone reads this and says ‘there is no restaurant on that corner!’ Ha…overthinking. Thank you for getting me going.

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  5. I haven’t really given up 100% hope, but if I do go next year it would probably be with my husband. We enjoy different things — so it would just be a different trip. Not a writing trip. Which my fiction book will be. But I wouldn’t mind EITHER trip.

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  6. I love your response. I never thought of YouTube. I have been mapping out places like crazy on Google Maps, figuring I’d narrow down my character’s destiny. Now that I’ve decided to make “my” trip a fictional one, I can run into anyone I wish, therefore limiting the places the character goes. And as far as the madness; I am so glad someone else goes trough this too. Some parts are more mad than others, but I think deep down inside that’s the part I love the most…


  7. On the net you can find a LOT of pictures taken in Paris, and in the library you can find al sorts of books about how to visit Paris, maybe that will help, or just take a break and do something completely different ???


  8. Tough times! My own solution would always be just to write-the-damn-book,as they say, or at least a first draft. But I know that things change. The radical edit that I love so much is now at my age a much slower process… But I get there eventually and so will you, I’m sure.


  9. Claudia, don’t give up on visiting Paris. You’ve got to go. Be inspired by my mom. A lifelong dream for her, she made it to Paris on her 80th birthday.


  10. Although most of the places I write about I have visited, I do add places I haven’t been to. Then I use YouTube. You can really feel you have been there then. For instance, I wrote about visiting a wooden shoe factory in Holland, which I have never done. So I watched a couple of Youtube clips and was able to write about it. And to answer your question, yes there is always madness before starting a writing project and again halfway through and again just before you finish it. And sometimes in-between. It’s all part of the process. Happy writing and Happy New Year.


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