One of my favorite parts about starting a new writing project is doing research. My writing consists primarily of fantasy, and this allows for a wide range of research directions. Much of what I look into before starting to lay out a plot deals with history of technology and daily living in order to make the setting and characters believable. Sometimes during the course of this research, I’ll run into some, little factoid I never considered significant before, and it will lead me down another trail of exploration that has significant impacts on my plotline.
Eventually, I have enough knowledge to hash out a more detailed plotline, and I start working character development into my notes. Coming to this point in my story pre-planning can be difficult for me, however. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my research that I forget the parameters of my original story idea and start looking into related topics simply because they catch my interest. This often leaves me with more details than will comfortably fit within a single novel and numerous ideas for future projects which will never see the light of day.
When I do manage to pull myself away from the research materials, my focus goes to adding details into my basic story premise until I have a well-directed plot outline. I try not to bog it down with inflexibility, but I want enough details to make sure I don’t forget any of the driving factors which impact major plot points. I also take time to adds notes on character development during different stages of the plotline, because without these notes, I have a tendency to rush my characters through some important self-realizations. Pacing is not my strong suit, but that’s why I take time to plot.
Finally, when I do start writing, I’m not afraid to stop and looking up information to ensure the workings of plot devices are actually feasible. Despite how much research I do ahead of time (including all of the excess tangents I explore), there will always be small elements which I failed to consider. While some advice I’ve read suggests continuing on with the writing of the story and coming back to these plot holes later, I always feel better if I can work them out during the initial draft. I have no desire to write out chapters of plot only to discover later that none of the details included are correct or even plausible.