Status: Inching Along
I’ve learned many things the hard way about writing, including this little gem of wisdom: targeted research is worth its weight in productivity gold when done in the pre-writing stage. Don’t make assumptions about anything that is pivotal to plot or character, because laziness in this regard will come back to bite you in the metaphorical ass.
The hero of my first novel is the new police chief in a very small Iowa town. The heroine is a girl he grew up with who has been framed for murder. I originally had a scene where the hero catches the heroine breaking and entering, but he’s already fallen for her and he doesn’t arrest her. After all, he’s a small town police chief. He has more discretion than a big city police chief, right?
Wrong. Before revising my first draft, one of the things I did was to read Deb Dixon’s book, When You’re the Only Cop in Town. I also read the brilliant and detailed police procedurals Eleven Days and Known Suspects by ex-Iowa-small-town deputy sheriff Donald Harstad. I learned that small town cops, at least the ones in charge, may exercise discretion more often than their big city counterparts. However, no honest police chief will stretch the law for his own benefit, which is pretty much what my character did in Draft 1.
End result? Much revising and rewriting that could have been avoided.
What about you? Has there been a time when targeted research before your first draft would have saved you a lot of time and effort?