Yesterday I spent the day doing research. Research is kind of like going down the rabbit hole. One fact leads to another totally unrelated fact and soon you're researching weird things way out in the swamp where you had no intention of going.
I suppose that's why it's called surfing. You're reading an article that mentions some other facet of your subject and includes a link so you just can't resist clicking...and you're off and running.
Anyway, today I researched locks and dams. The watery kind. On the Monongahela River. I had nooooo clue that the river from Pittsburgh to the West Virginia line is a long string of locks and dams. Now if my hero travels that river, he's going to have to deal with the locks and dams--or he's going to have to hop out of the river periodically and port around the locks or dams. That's a good thing to know.
Unless your book is set in a totally imaginary setting, then the devil is in the details. Which way does the river flow? That will determine which way the water flows over the dams. How many locks are there? Where are they located? Those are things the author needs to know, even if they don't mention them in the book.
One of my critique partners read my current work in progress and pointed out a deficit in the writing. In twenty-seven thousand words, I really had not explained, described, or introduced the hero. Oh, I used his name, but not how he came by it. I described him in a cursory fashion. But I didn't give the reader a single clue about his character or personality or what events shaped his life. Nothing at all about those things that made him who he was.
When I started exploring my hero, I found I didn't know much about him either. So I'll be spending this week getting to know him. So far, he's a pretty nifty person to know. He's strong and gentle, responsible and afraid, laughs easily and is willing to cry. Who knows what else I'll find out about him?
As I peel back the layers, new avenues of research will open up and I'll be haring off, trying to discover which facts are important and which ones aren't. When I start writing next week, I'll have most of the background in place. And then, it will be BICHOK until I finish the book.