I'm getting ready to pull things together for this year's NaNoWriMo, and I'm trying to go about my research in a little bit more of an organized way. I have a tendency to write until I come across something that I don't know (what kind of reference would a person born in 1920 recognize? Did the Inca have buildings with doors?), stop writing, and then get into a black hole of research. I have a bad habit of "wiki-hopping", where I go to one page on Wikipedia, which leads to another link that looks interesting, to another link...Next thing you know, I have twenty tabs open and I've suddenly started reading about Sing a Song of Sixpence.
I've mentioned that I have a germ of an idea, and this is what I'm planning to work on for NaNoWriMo this year. So far, I've written a of vignettes that are giving me a great idea of what my characters are like, which has been immensely helpful. It's also helping me figure out what questions I need to answer to make me comfortable with the world I'm building. Coming up with a list of questions has been an easy way to help me organize what I need to figure out, and will hopefully keep me from getting lost along the way.
I'm also going back to a process I used in college, and drafting my NaNoWriMo longhand. My college required every senior to write a thesis in order to graduate, in addition to whatever classes they were taking. It was my first experience with writing a paper that long, or that involved that much research, and I found that one of the best ways to force myself to edit along the way was to write out my first draft by hand, and then type it up later. I still have the binder with all of the pages I drafted, and it's an interesting exercise to read not only the original ideas I had, but also how excited I was when I was writing them. My handwriting changes dramatically when I'm on a roll, and when I'm struggling to get the words out, my handwriting becomes very precise.
I'm curious how my research plan will work, and how soon my cunning plans will fall apart. That is one of the things I've come to terms with as I get older - that whole saying about "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry"? It's a saying for a reason.
Progress report: I'm including research in my "what have you done today" count, and I've still managed six out of the last seven days. I feel good about my progress, even if it means that I spent some times reading a page or two on the history of written language or write a few lines in a vignette that will never see the light of day.