I'm in the midst of writing a short story and I've discovered I now have to go back to finish my research. Oh joy.
I'd rather be writing, honestly, but I know the story will suffer if I try to fudge the facts even a little. Sure, as writers we have the liberty to 'make up' people, places, crimes, fashion... hell we can create entire worlds and realities! But for this story -- a paranormal, historical romance with suspenseful elements -- I need facts. Dates. Places. Even names. I need a sense of the environment and culture of the time. All this goes into making a story -- yes, a fictional story -- seem more real to the reader.
Can I tell you a secret? You've probably figured it out already, but I HATE this part. If I were a wealthy woman I'd hire someone to do the ground work for me. Seriously. Let some poor flunkie sift through the mounds of info and verify the truth from total fiction or speculation. That alone would save hours of my time. Like I said, I'd rather devote those hours to creating the story.
But even a small fortune wouldn't get me out of all the research. I'd still have to jump in and look at the information for myself. As a writer, you're lucky to use even half of the info you come up with in the actual story. If you use too much -- particularly in historical -- the reader's eyes can glaze over and you've lost them. It's all about balance.
But you cannot write about something if you don't know it or understand it. Remember, I didn't say "write what you know", that's very limiting. What I am saying is you have to know what you're writing about. You have to learn about it.
Being a writer is more than stringing words together in a decent fashion. It's so much more. It involves imagination, creativity, long-suffering, diligence, an open mind, and constant learning and growth. Even if it's that stuff, like Algebra, that leaves you wondering: "Will I ever need this?".
Um, probably not. But do it anyway. ;)