Writing and Researching

I have gained an entirely new appreciation for research. For years, I reveled in the research I did for my various non-fiction projects, scratching my History itch and feeling pretty good about it. However, now that I am applying the necessary research to my Sherlock Holmes novel, I find myself constantly ill-prepared.

As I mentioned over at Crazy 8 Press, I lacked the time and resources to do a proper job with Time Station Berlin and would love a mulligan. I also watched the time and effort my friend Howard Weinstein invested in getting the details accurate for his recently completed historic western. I knew what I was getting myself into or so I thought.

sherlock_holmes_02Writing Sherlock Holmes comes with a set of challenges which I thought would be good for me as an author. First, this is a pastiche of Arthur Conan Doyle, so Steven Savile and I will be trying to sound as if this came from his pen. I have my laptop’s Kindle app open with the complete works on one screen so I can steep myself in that voice. The style of 19th century writing, British writing no less, is entirely new to me.

It is also one thing to put in the outline that Holmes investigates a missing sailor by first going to the Admiralty. It’s entirely another to figure out what the Admiralty was like in 1881, what the building floor plan was like. Later, we have Holmes and Watson taking a train to north. Again, it’s a single line. I spent maybe half an hour yesterday trying to find online sources for what those trains were like especially the schedules so I get could the timing right.

Throughout the writing, which commenced on schedule on the 17th, I find I am frequently pausing to look up some detail, from tipping etiquette to fashion. Thanks to Google Maps, I at least have the geography right, which helps.

The constant delays for additional and necessary research has me concerned that I will cumulatively lose time. I have also realized there are other demands on my time which needs to be accommodated. I am therefore flogging myself to get words on to paper as fast as I can, largely to ensure I have my draft done before I have to refocus my attentions on school. With our vacation impending, I anticipated being about 53,000 words into the story by the time we left.  According to the chart I prepared, I should be around 22,000 words and stand as of last night at 27,909, so I am running ahead.

Yesterday, though, I had trouble focusing and felt the burden had made me weary. Part of me feels I should slow down, do my assigned count for the day and be content. Another part wants me to keep chugging ahead because invariably something(s) will derail my plan and the cushion will come in handy.

It feels great to be home, sitting at my desk, writing fiction and doing something different (and yes, fun). Don’t get me wrong, but as I begin the tenth day on the book I felt the need to pause and reflect on where I am and where I am headed.

One comment

  • Paul Balze

    I’m reminded of my recent experience taking two and a half hours to proofread a 32-page story because I had to check the translation on some foreign-language dialogue, verify the name of the city at the time the story was set, and make sure the mythological references were correct–in addition to the usual checks for spelling, punctuation and grammar.

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