By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy
A commenter asked what my policy was for research while writing. An interesting question really, because I do a lot of research, but it's not something I think about much post-world the building stage. But there are times when I find I need to know something as I'm writing, and I'll stop to figure it out before I go on.
I like to do as much research as I can before I start a book, because stopping while I write can interrupt my train of thought and knock me out of my writing groove. But not everything I'll need can be foreseen.
I keep a file with world building notes and other important details that I can easily access as I write. A list of names based on Afrikaans words (which is where a lot of my names come from), foods, plants, animals, clothes, etc. Things that bring a world to life that I'll need to look up on a regular basis.
Then there are things that I don't expect I'll need. For example, I needed to know a lot about forging and metal working for Blue Fire, and I did some research, but as I wrote, I found that I needed more details to make the scene come alive.
When I couldn't go forward in the scene without knowing that detail, I stopped and looked it up. Understanding the layout of my forge was pretty critical to knowing how Nya was going to interact with it, and writing the scene without those details was a waste of time for me. I knew I'd have to rewirte it once I got the setting down anyway. So I stopped and found out what I needed to know.
Sometimes I just make notes on things. There's a holiday in Darkfall and I wanted to create a good name for it, but it was just called the Harvest Festival, and the first time I use it I put (need name) after it. It doesn't matter what I call it right now, and later, I can spend the time to come with something that fits the story best. I have quite a few of these notes in the first draft, and I'll look them all up before I start the second draft and fix whatever I noted to fix.
Then there's after the fact stuff I discover I'll need, but it's not critical to the story at the moment. A lot of this is setting or descriptive details. Architecture, clothes, smells, etc. I'll want to flesh out a descriptive scene and I'll make a quick note in my outline file on what to look for and do in the next edit pass. This happens most often when I end up somewhere I wasn't expecting and didn't have a lot planned for it beforehand. Or when I make up a building or place on the fly because it works with where the plot is going.
So there ya go. There's no one thing that I do, and it all depends on what's needed at what time. I do find that if I'm stopping frequently to look something up, I'll set the writing aside and spend more research time, because obviously I didn't do enough before I started.