When to Quit

Yup, I know it is hard to quit once you get started doing research. After all, it sounds so important. Writerly even. But, you have to know when to quit and actually begin the process of writing. Yup, remember writing? The reason you're doing the research?

To be clear about the goal of research, unless of course, your researching is a hobby, like knitting, you need to remember WHY you're researching.

I once had a rainy day opportunity to do an in depth interview with a used book store owner. (Translation: It was a rainy day and neither one of us wanted to do anything but talk.) She is a fan of my writing, so I thought that asking some questions might glean some usable information as well as while away some time being the focus of someone's attention. Ah, yea me. (sigh)

Oh, back to the story...I asked her what in particular she liked about The Proving Zone: Tory's Story. She said it was the little bits sprinkled through it of real things. She said quite often authors overdo the facts and the story gets boring. But a few, sprinkled around, stand out. (Kind of a less-is-more thing.) When I asked for specifics, I was surprised. Evidently, she had pretty well memorized the book and remembered details I didn't remember putting in until she expanded a bit. For her, it was the survival details. Since the book is survival adventure romance, the description of how to get water in the desert and how to get drinkable water out of cactus pulp was interesting. That deserts get cold after dark, she also found interesting. (She never mentioned the small flesh-eating/carrion lizards, but then they might not be everyone's cup of tea!)

She didn't like repeats. When I asked her what she meant, she said, that if you have to start the campfire by looking for wood and then tinder, she could follow that every time a person fixed a fire that the same applied. The author didn't need to go through describing the process every time. I asked her if her customers felt the same. Affirmative.

It was very interesting to talk to a person who owns a used book store because people who buy used books tend to read more of what they really like. The books stay on the shelf so much longer or certain books are asked for more often. Since the excitement of advertising or best-selling books are not an issue in used books, readers tend to please their interests more. They shop longer.

Used books also introduce readers to new-to-them authors at a price the risk is less. A used book store also is a treasure trove for readers just discovering an author. By the title traffic in her store, the used book store owner had her finger on the pulse point of which authors wrote more satisfying stories.

Yikes! Satisfying stories? Yes. Satisfying stories get talked about and as the information spreads, those books cycle off the shelves and back again slowly or never to return. A used book store owner knows that books that never return probably aren't being burned but are being kept! Books that are on a fast spin through aren't as good because the reader brought them back for credit on their next used book purchase.

So, when do you quit doing research? When you have the story in your head well enough to begin, and before you feel the need to over do it with all the wonderfulness you have discovered. Our readers might like the worlds we make, but they like the stories that happen in them more.

Let the story out....


Joan Vincent said...

Love your style, Nina. You make a very valid point--one can turn research into an ongoing hobby and NOT make it to the story. Setting parameters is important. I try for a general overview of the info I need and then write down questions as I write the story to fine tune details. That usually keeps me on track.

Nina Sipes said...

Thanks Joan, you say the best things! I have enjoyed reading your work--even before I knew who you were. I think you give just the right amount of detail in your novels. Somehow you get just right the tone of the time. Or how I imagine it would be. One thing we sometimes forget. People are people-no matter when they lived.

Reese Mobley said...

Nina, how wonderful for you that you had someone other than family put in their two cents. I'm sure she has trouble keeping The Proving Zone on the shelf!

Nina Sipes said...

Reese, evidently my writing doesn't appeal to many people, but the ones it does is memorable. People have contacted me about the story and freaked me out. Ask Pat, I called her. And yet I have very low sales. Whether people like our stories or not is so subjective to them and where they are in their lives. I don't read thrillers as they scare me, but people who do seem to like my story. I can't figure that one out. But, I spoke to this woman about books in general after mine in particular, because I was curious about what she knew of readers and what attracted them to a story or not. It was quite fun and I recommend asking people what they specifically like.