How research helps writers get unstuck
Have you ever been in the messy middle of a writing project? It’s the point where you’re not quite sure how to get from the middle of the narrative to the satisfying conclusion you have planned. It feels like you’re in quicksand, unable to clearly see the path forward. Your characters look to you for guidance, you look to them for guidance, and none of you have any answers so you just spin place, or worse—you abandon the project altogether.
The wisdom and guidance you need to get out of the messy middle is research. Right now I’m working on a historical fiction novel. The main tentpoles of the plot have remained the same but I’ve brought in many new details to make the script come alive. It’s set in an Italian bakery in New York City in 1910, a dynamic and wild time in the city, country, and world. A myriad of historical events would have had an outsized impact on my characters so I have to research that time to get the details just right. It’s a heavy lift, and ultimately worth the time and attention.
I got myself out of that messy middle by digging into The New York Times archive for specific dates and events that figure prominently into the lives of my characters. In that research I found a plethora of information, and that information created the map I needed to find my way to the conclusion.
If you’re in the messy middle now and ready to throw in the towel out of frustration, take a deep breath and go to the archives. Let history be your guide. Research your way across the channel to safely emerge on shore on the other side. It’s only a matter of time. The world needs your story.