I find that research and writing feed off each other. Early on in my work on a book, I’ll visit the location and keep my eyes open for things that grab my attention. I do this with the premise of the story in mind.
Never lose sight of the story’s preeminence in the balance of research and narrative. It’s easy to wow people with facts. Emotionally moving them with the story is the much more vital--and more difficult--task.
For example, while I was working on my current manuscript for Checkmate, I knew that I wanted to plant the story in Charlotte, North Carolina. So, last year I visited the city and took a history tour. While I was there, I learned that there are abandoned gold mines that thread underneath Uptown Charlotte. No one seemed to know where they were, but apparently they’d been built in the early 1800s and were never filled in.
Fascinating. That led me into researching to see if I could locate any historical documents that told the location of the mines—and I found one. Then, as I worked on the book, I kept in touch with experts on the history of Charlotte, asking questions as I moved forward with the story.
It’s a give and take of uncovering the story as you discover more about its elements. You’ll be tempted to over-research—and that has happened with me. I believe it’s best to work from your premise, grab hold of intriguing facts that relate to it, then move forward and keep researching as you write.