The Research Quagmire


Happiest of Scribe Days to you! What’s Scribe Day? July 7, of course. Seventh day of the seventh month. Seems like a good day to celebrate!

The Scribes have come a long way since that fateful day in 2011 when we launched this blog. We are all now published or, in my case, about to be published–FETA ATTRACTION releases January 6! Cover reveal coming soon, I promise. Yeah, I’m the caboose on the Publication Train, but I hope it’ll be worth the wait.

One problem I never thought I’d have three years ago was being on deadline. Oh, of course I’d heard of other writers being in a mad race to finish and turn in a manuscript to an editor–I just never really considered that someday I’d have a pony in that race.

So here I am, in the middle of the third book of my series, which is due in a couple of months, and I’ve found myself bogged down. I haven’t been writing. I’ve been researching. Ah, research. My Strange Addiction. I keep waiting for the producers of that television show to call me.

I’ll say it now. I. Love. Research. Love it. Give me a computer with an internet connection and I’ll happily research anything, for hours on end. Genealogy and local history are my two danger zones. And both of those topics feature heavily in my Greek To  Me Mysteries, set in the Thousand Islands, situated between New York State and Canada in the St. Lawrence River.

My latest research obsession? Don’t laugh. Salad Dressing. Thousand Island salad dressing, to be exact. Next time you open a bottle of that pink creamy stuff to pour over your greens, you might be interested to know that the origins of this dressing are shrouded in mystery. There are three competing versions of its Creation Myth, all with a northern New York connection. And based on my hours of poring over old cookbooks at Project Gutenberg and and some more obscure digitized public domain materials, I think I’ve come to a decision about which of those myths is the most likely to be true. Not that I can reveal it just yet, LOL! But if you’re interested in a summary, click here.

But for a book to feel authentic, a writer needs to do her research, right? So the hours were necessary. Well, yes, but only up to a point. My story only needed a minimum amount on this topic–and yet my investigative journalist-like nature overtook me and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. See, I’d like to be the one to break a story like that. Someday, I just might do it.

Research can enhance your storytelling. Or it can be a huge timesuck-slash-avoidance behavior.  The research doesn’t mean much if you don’t get the words down on paper and out the door to a waiting editor.

So, I am allowing myself one more hour of research on this topic–for now, until book 3 is finished. I ordered a DVD of a local PBS documentary which claims to have found the smoking gun in the Thousand Island dressing and when that comes, I will watch it. But no more hundred-year-old cookbooks. No more searching the Internet for contemporary accounts of salads. Pinky swear!

Do you do research for your writing? Can you stop anytime you want or do you get obsessive? What’s your favorite salad dressing?






3 thoughts on “The Research Quagmire”

  1. Suze, I love this post. Salad dressing is truly an enigma and a mystery. Why is it so hard to find excellent prepared ones? I have succumbed to making my own, unless it is a great, chunky, thick bluecheese dressing. Guess I could make my own version of that one, but who has the time? Right now I am satisfied with “Marie’s chunky blue cheese” found in the refrigerator section of most supermarkets. I used to have to go to Massachusetts to get a good blue cheese dressing, and who knows the mystery behind that one, only available to restaurants. Then BJ’s had one, and discontinued it, that’s when I began exploring supermarkets, tried a few and landed on Marie’s. For now. The other dressings, all of them are all salt. Yuk. My own oil and vinegar recipe is good for a simple one. You know, oil, vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, mustard, pepper, and some water. Okay? Enough about salad dressings. Now. For the research. I researched my story, for three years, before I put a word on paper. The research continued during the writing, and although my MS is the hands of my editor, I still find things I want to know more about my coming book. Like the image for the cover, a long synopsis, a short synopsis, back cover blurb. I have painted, written, and designed and still am not satisfied, so what do I have to do, research some more? Ugh. This post–what an inspiration to settle on an idea and scramble away. What do you think, Suze?

  2. Writing futuristic/sci fi/fantasy/dystopian, you can imagine the research. Especially since my characters travel across the U.S. of the future. I have to decide what details to include about places which might be familiar to people and whuch ones will likely have changed drastically I fifty years. Of course the plus side to writing this genre is that I can make a lot of crap up and no one will be the wiser, LOL. I get terribly hung up searching Google maps. Love the zoom in feature that allows me to really see places I’ve never been. And I can get totally sidetracked by researching high tech gadgets…a side affect of living with a space suit engineer. I do try to limit my time at it though, since it often becomes just another excuse to procrastinate and avoid the hard part of writing…actually writing:-)

  3. What was the outcome of your research?

    I always love hearing anything about my islands. 🙂

    ~Former Wellesley Island islander

    I shall make it back again soon…this will mark the 3 summer since I’ve been on the island…the longest gap of my entire life…

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