I finished a second draft of my historical novel, Like Mayflies in a Stream, last night . . . well, technically, this morning. It still needs work before I turn it in on the 15th, but I’m excited to have finished this revision and happy with how the book is shaping up.
I did part of my research before and while I wrote, and I’ll do the rest over the next week or so in an orgy of reading and Internet searching. That may sound backwards, but researching after the the first draft is done has advantages. Because I know exactly what it is in the novel, as I read background materials any mistakes I made jump out. So do possible cool details to add. Also, it’s not until the novel is close to finished that I know what topics I need to research to write it.
For example, a week ago I didn’t even know what commodity cash is and yesterday I rewrote all the financial transactions in Mayflies to make the economy more historically accurate.
The research I’ve already done has been so fascinating that I hope to write another book set in ancient Mesopotamia. It’s startling how much of our culture is rooted in that time and place. The 360 degrees of a circle and the 24-hour day, for starters.
Interspersed among my usual author interviews, editing tips, and pictures of stuff in my yard, my blog will start including more about my research—not just cool facts about guys who wore sheep-fleece skirts with tails but also the quagmires of writing about a time period where most of the evidence has washed away, been stolen, is still buried, or is hard to interpret.
When you do background research for your books, how much do you do ahead of time, while you're writing, and after you've finished the first draft?