Research, Yes. Outline, Maybe?


What has Vietnam, “The Feminine Mystique,” Vermeer, art looted by the Nazi’s, circus performers, vegetarian lasagna and two rare neurological diseases?


The partial list of things I need to research for my new novel idea.


Research —on the Internet, in the library, visiting locations and interviewing people— helps me ground my completely fictional stories in the realm of the real. I’m often scrambling while I write to verify historical facts, identify places or nail down the tenor of a particular time & place.

This time, I’m experimenting and front loading my research phase. I’ve created a list of all the things I want to know more about before I get rolling on the story. And, although I tend to be a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants as opposed to working from a carefully planned outline) I’m thinking about developing a timeline with both historical events and the major experiences of the principal characters.

I’ve tried outlines before and they’ve never worked well for me. This timeline idea is more about the world outside the characters than their internal and interpersonal dramas. Still, it’s a departure for me and I’m excited about the experiment.

Any thoughts this or advice?


The joke is on me!

During the sliver of time between the evening I drafted this post and today, I started writing — by the seat of my pants and noting what I needed to look up/into along the way. LOL… I’m a pantser even when I try to be systematic! I had to start working on the story. I just couldn’t help myself.


  1. A girl after my own heart. The story comes first and the facts can follow.I think you never know what you need to study until you’ve written about it really.

    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  2. -giggles- You had me worried there for a minute! I do heaps of research too, but as David pointed out – you don’t really know what you need to know until you…write about it. 😀

    Just recently I’ve been doing stacks of research as I write about the Japanese elements of my story – esp. things about the food, Bunraku and very simple phrases in the language. Great fun, and I find that embedded research tends to be both more focused and more conducive to creativity. 😀

    All I can say is ‘Go girl!’

    • Candy Korman

      hehehehe… I almost became a planner and not a pantser.

      So far the story is flying. Sometimes I check a quick fact and sometimes I just leave a blank to be filled in later. I did have to stop the flow yesterday and make a family tree. I have to be careful about real life events and how the characters’ lives fit into things that really happened. Today I had appointments and didn’t get to write at all. But, on the upside, I had a meeting at an art gallery and there’s definitely room for a gallery owner in the wild mix of characters so… nothing is wasted. Not even time!

  3. Hi Candy,

    This is a great post and a topic that I too have written about on my blog.
    I came to the conclusion that I am a ‘Plantser’ – half planner and half pantser. I need to know the main pathway through a story before writing, but need to have surprises along the way.
    I do some research before I start writing but I’ll still have to go to Google for information sometimes if there’s something I’m not sure of. I’ll also double check my facts as part of the editing process too.

    All the best with your writing,

    • Candy Korman

      I guess I’m a PLANTSER too. I know where the plot is going and I know the basic beats in the story, but…. I’m winging the actual progression. And, if the past is prelude, I’ll find that the characters take me in unexpected directions. That always happens to me!

      In this particular plot, I need to make sure that certain events in the characters’ lives happen at the right historical moments, so there’s a bit of research early on. That’s what has forced me to do a family tree and to coordinate it with particular events. It’s a balancing act between the improvisational writing process and the precise requirements of history.

      Thanks for you good wishes. I think I need it this time out!