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I usually start researching a new book while I am in the midst of a current project. The idea behind that being I want to shorten the down time between finishing a book and diving into something new. It doesn't work because no matter how much pre-research I have done I seem to always need a few months of down time (woe-is-me I'll never write again time) between books. It's my process and I try to honor it even if I don't like or understand it.

Even though I ground my books by tying them in some time or way to an aspect of myself and my life there is always some sort of research to be done. Research for me usually starts with reading a bunch of fiction that has been pubbed in an area that might be similar to mine. (Books that would show up on a list of  "If you liked this book then you might like this one.") So for HUGGING THE ROCk I read every verse novel I could get my hands on. Then I read a lot of novels about divorce and mental illness and family relationships. After I feel full up on fiction it's time to dig in deep for the details and move to the non-fiction. For Hugging the Rock that meant a lot of psychology stuff, case histories, divorce stories - you get the idea. When I couldn't stand to read another word it was time to get down to the actual writing. Well, the trying to write. As I explained in a recent interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith the words didn't exactly race from my fingertips to the page.

Anyway. HUGGING THE ROCK is done. I've gone through the galley for the final corrections and after a last chat with my editor tomorrow it heads off to the printers next week. It's time to write. I made a commitment to start a new verse novel that I will refer to by the acronym MTLB until it is sold. I know sort of what it is about. (It's inspired by the year long writing program I did at an alternative school a few years ago.) I know sort of who it is about. (M and his dad and N and his dad and Mrs. W.) I did a lot of research the last six months on juvenile justice and poverty and teaching and a bunch of other stuff that may or may not make it into the book. I wrote a few poems. I wrote a couple more. Then I got stuck and found myself using the excuse that I needed to do more research. Read just one more case history. Google a few more phrases. Watch one more movie. (Hey, movies are GREAT for research.) But after a few days of this I realized the truth. I wasn't writing. I wasn't researching. I was just procrastinating. Sometimes I wonder if procrastination is just a stew bubbling on a backburner, waiting for us to throw everything into the pot, stirring and adding interesting ingredients until the smell overpowers us and we simply have to dig in.

So yes, research is important. But knowing when to stop researching is important too. The research will still be there after I finish a draft, if I feel I really need it but you can't factcheck a book you haven't written yet.

And in the "thank you for all the kind words about me" department, I've had a few more shout-outs. It always feels a bit awkward tooting my own horn but here goes:

My picture book Oliver's Must-do List received a nice review from Jen Robinson's Book page.

Jen also reviewed Hugging the Rock. My favorite lines in review? "Rachel's voice is pitch perfect." and the fact that she calls the Mother's Day poem "brilliant" and that she said, "I give it my highest recommendation." Wow! Thank you, Jenn.

More lovely words about Hugging the Rock over here at Mindy's Book Journal. and here at  Bec's Book Blog.

Thank you so much for your support of my book.

There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 22 comments — Leave comment )
May 16th, 2006 04:40 am (UTC)
If you don't toot your own horn ... we may not hear, otherwise!

Keep ...um ... tooting.

*internal crackup, befitting mother of 8-year-old*
May 19th, 2006 02:22 am (UTC)
LOL. Okay...here I go, toot toot tooting away.
May 16th, 2006 04:53 am (UTC)
May 19th, 2006 02:23 am (UTC)
May 16th, 2006 05:04 am (UTC)
I'm really looking forward to Hugging the Rock coming out!
May 19th, 2006 02:23 am (UTC)
Thanks, Janni. I hope your new book is doing well.
May 16th, 2006 09:44 am (UTC)
Yay!!!! Look at all the good stuff going on for you! Yipee!
May 19th, 2006 02:24 am (UTC)
Aw thanks.
May 16th, 2006 11:36 am (UTC)
Congratulations for getting Hugging the Rock done, and best of luck with MTLB!
May 19th, 2006 02:24 am (UTC)
Thank you. Hmmmm...in MTLB the MC has to do something terrible to someone...want me to make that someone a bird???? :-)
May 19th, 2006 06:14 pm (UTC)
Cool! You can call it "Mommy Torments Little Birds . . . that nest in her dryer." Sounds like a best seller to me! ;)

Oh, and I like the flowers on your blog page. Very springy.
May 16th, 2006 12:55 pm (UTC)
Bubbling stew. Brilliant!

Congratulations on the finishing and all the great shout-outs. "Pitch perfect." Wow!

Good luck on MTLB.
May 19th, 2006 02:25 am (UTC)
Thanks. Now if I could just nail the voice in the new book half as well I'll be happy. I love your icon!
May 16th, 2006 01:30 pm (UTC)
I'm in total agreement with you regarding the research. It's a little too easy to get sucked into the research, putting the WIP to the side. Oh, yeah, I actually have to write pages?
May 19th, 2006 02:25 am (UTC)
Yeah, I always tell my students you can't sell what you don't write but I have a hard time remembering that myself.
May 16th, 2006 02:05 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on the great reviews!
May 19th, 2006 02:27 am (UTC)
Thanks, Debra. Here's hoping they translate into sales.
May 16th, 2006 02:14 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on the great reviews AND on finishing Hugging the Rock!

I'm totally with you on the research/procrastination issue. I love doing background research and really have to force myself to say, enough already. Write!
May 19th, 2006 02:28 am (UTC)
Thanks! Isn't it fun when you're doing the research and you find the perfect missing piece to your story that you didn't even know was missing?
May 16th, 2006 03:28 pm (UTC)
Great reveiws!! Keep tooting!!!
May 16th, 2006 04:12 pm (UTC)
Hugging the Rock review
Hi Susan,

Glad that you liked the reviews. Thanks for sending me your wonderful books! Have a great day! Jen Robinson - http://jkrbooks.typepad.com
May 17th, 2006 04:43 pm (UTC)
Book Covers
I love your blog! I need to read one of your books.

Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting on Book Covers.

( 22 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."
--Bonnie Friedman

"As writers, we must be willing to feel our sadness, our anger, our terror, so we can reach in and find our sweet vulnerability that is just sitting there waiting for us to come back home."
--Nancy Slonim Aronie

"Writers write about what obsesses them. You draw those cards. I lost my mother when I was 14. My daughter died at the age of 6. I lost my faith as a Catholic. When I'm writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is."
--Anne Rice


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