One point Amy makes is that it’s difficult to research esoteric subjects. I couldn’t agree more, but I think the difficulty goes beyond that. The sort of details a writer wants to give a story living, breathing believability are hard to find in books. We don’t just want to know that a castle’s sally ports were small, so one had to duck going in and out of them (a fact I learned from John Wilhite, someone who has actually seen them, not a book), but we yearn to know how often people hit their heads on those ports. We want to know how it smelled, what the dirt under your fingernails felt like, how the water or wine tasted, and all those rich sensory details that are difficult to extrapolate from academic books.
And sometimes, much as we try, we have little clue where to find information. Amy mentioned an interest in elephant domestication. Like her, I might have gone looking for such information in animal books, but domestication is also a subject in archaeology. I would never have known that without happening to know several archaeology students.
Lastly, the time for research can turn into weeks, depending on how accurate an author wishes to be. As a rough estimate, I told K.M. Weiland that I’d spent 40 hours researching my current WIP. Honestly, though, that will certainly turn into much more. For an initial draft, I do basic research, enough to have a feel for my setting. Upon editing, I often have to do more to flesh out details and clarify elements of the story. Like Weiland, though, if I spend too much time researching, my fingers itch to write. Much as I love learning new things, at heart, I am a storyteller first.
How do you research? Do you enjoy it?