Research is good. Research keeps us from making terrible, horrible, no-good mistakes that result in readers throwing our books across the room. Research is often necessary – especially because, the more fantastic the world, the more you have to have verisimilitude in the things true to life in the here and now for readers to suspend their disbelieve for the fantastical and the future. On the other hand, too much research can be a terrible waste of time.
On the gripping hand, there’s the advice, when stuck or out of ideas, to thoroughly research something that you had no interest in before, until you find out what makes it cool and interesting that you never knew. Exploring something in-depth is also a great way to find other cool details you didn’t know that reinforce the realness of the first thing you were researching.
Back to the other hand, a friend related the tale of being stuck for weeks until she could find the speed of flight of mosquitoes vs. wasps, and therefore could calculate the maximum rate of movement for swarms of each. All that was only relevant for 3 paragraphs of one chapter.
This hit me recently: I had one simple question: “The shakedown hike is going to be on land lifted straight out of the southern end of the Appalachians. When hiking with a geologist, who’s testing magnetotelluric gear, what rock formations / strata would she notice, and what minerals / ore bodies would the sensor gear likely find?”
Oh, not a simple answer. So not a simple answer. 6 hours later, I realized I’d slipped over the edge of the research event horizon when I was in trade industry sites for silica industrial sand vs. olivine in foundry casting, and casual searches of ores and terms went from “Here’s a website with pretty jewelry or tumbled stones” to the first page being entirely full of abstracts for scientific articles.
Oh, and street food in Poland.
When was the last time you lost mass amounts of time to a research rabbit hole, and down what dark paths did it lead you?