Jenna Black's Blog Experiment

Wherein romance author Jenna Black plunges into the terrifying new territory of blogging . . .


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Stupid Writer Questions

I'm in the process of working on a new book, and I got stuck again with what I like to refer to as "Stupid Writer Questions." All right, I use the word "stupid," but they're not really stupid, they're just . . . odd.

Stupid Writer Questions are the kinds of questions that you can't find a quick answer for on the Internet or in a book. If you have a book, you have to read it cover to cover just to find that one little tidbit you need to know. If it's on the Internet, you don't on which of the 1,000,000 hits you get on your search might be the one you need. And usually, they're these tiny, trivial little things that you still don't dare get wrong.

So, here's the thing that was bugging me last week that set off this semi-rant about the miserable existence of writers. I have a scene in the book where my heroine fires a Taser. I found all kinds of good information on the Internet about how Tasers work. I found videos of people getting shot with Tasers. I even found an online manual. You'd think that would tell me everything I needed to know, right?

Wrong. Because my scene doesn't stop after she fires the Taser and the guy goes down. My Stupid Writer Question was: now what happens? How does she disconnect the wires from her Taser? What does she do with the wires and probes when she's done? I did finally find a Yahoo Group dedicated to weapons info for writers, and was able to "talk" to people who actually have used Tasers or have experienced the aftermath (for example, EMTs). But I can't tell you how much time I spent chasing that answer.

I really hate doing research. There are two reasons for it. One is that it's so hard to try to ferret out the one esoteric fact you need. The other is that I just have no patience. Because, you see, when I'm scouring the Internet trying to figure out whether you throw out the wire and probes when you're done, I'm not writing my book. Once I get working on something, I tend to get obsessive about it. It's kind of like how I feel as reader when I'm reading a really great book--I don't want to put it down even for necessary things, such as, say, eating.

I try to avoid putting myself into situations that require research in my books for just that reason. I'm not the kind of person who would think, gee, I know nothing about flying an airplane, so let me write a book from the point of view of a veteran pilot, and let me make it all about flying. Some writers would be excited by doing all the research they'd need to be convincing. I would look at it and think, I have to figure all this really complicated stuff out before I can even start my story??? But I've got a story to tell NOW.

Does this mean I don't do research? Obviously not, considering how much time I spent trying to figure out what you do after you've fired your Taser. But at the height of my frustration with that particular Stupid Writer Question, I seriously considered making up a fictitious weapon instead so I could do whatever I wanted with it.


At 2:37 AM, Blogger Lady M said...

I can only tell you what I do in case I run into needing to know something while I am writing.

I MARK the area with something (highlighter or color the words or something to make them stand out) and note it on an Excel sheet that I keep open.

On the excel sheet - I write the approximate page or chapter or paragraph #...

I write what I need to know and any follow up questions.

I brainstorm where I might find the information -writing them down in a list check off style.

Then I continue on my WIP - and when I am tired of writing - *ha ha* - I go to my list and check off the brainstorming - go back and add what I need to the WIP.

It's really easier than it sounds.

But I don't let something stop me from writing - I just plow through it. Unless it is so INTEGRAL to the story plot - I don't stop to find it . I go back and clean up.

I hope that helped a little.

Lady M

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Rene said...

Oh, I spent a whole day trying to figure out what they called chandaliers in the 18th century. Then I spent another day trying to figure out how they got water inside a house in 18th century London. I knew they had underground piping which brought water into the house, but how did they get it out? I knew they didn't have a Delta or Moen faucet. I gave up.

At 6:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

but how did they get it out?

How do you think? Buckets + windows.


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