I've had the flu the last few days and because we were on vacation, I've been running on cold meds, cough drops, and adrenaline. I simply wanted to enjoy my vacation, do everything we had planned, and didn't want to bring others down or hold them back. Through watery eyes and silenced sneezes, I faked my way through. And I had an awesome time.
"Um, are you not feeling well?"
I stared at him. Then flung my arms out. He read this gesture correctly.
"Well, I know you weren't feeling well, but I thought you were getting better."
"How?" I asked, sounding in my head like I was speaking into a tin cup.
"Because yesterday you seemed pretty good."
"You mean yesterday when I slept from Mesquite to Provo, then sulked because I felt like breakfast and it was 1:30 and you guys picked Wendy's so I pretended my salad was french toast and said at least my sandwich had bacon in it?"
"I was medicated and read the rest of the time. How is that feeling better?"
"I don't know. You looked better."
"That's because I washed my face."
He looked me over. "And combed your hair."
Back to writing. I've recently posted about using real life and events to inspire characters, setting, and scenes. Well, this post is about hitting those points where you need to research. You can't always write what you know. Sometimes I come to a research point where I have to stop and look it up. A name, a map, a fact. And sometimes I do stop for the little things. But if it's bigger, like the layout of a famous amusement park, or what it takes to become a volunteer at a women's shelter, or the correct police procedure in child abandonment and missing persons, I mark the place with an asterisk, and fake it. I make my best guesses, stage what I see in my head, keep moving the story forward as far as I can, keeping in mind that I'll make the correct changes once I get the correct information. Then, when I can research, it's generally pretty easy to fit in the correct findings and, if needed, tweak the story a bit to fit.
BUT: If it's something that is weight-bearing for the plot, I stop where I am and research. No point trying to go forward, guess wrong, and have the ideas that follow end up worthless. You can bet that if I was burning up with fever, was unable to eat anything, and kept seeing Elvis in the room (although we were in Vegas, so more possibility there) I would have stayed in the hotel room, perhaps gone to the emergency room, and the vacation would have been put on hold a bit while I got the help I needed.
Are you following me? I guess what I'm trying to express is that knowing when you can fake it and just keep writing is important to the flow of your story. Just be sure to straighten things out later. Researching your facts, the things you don't know, is vital to your story's credibility. Even if it's fantasy, truth resonates. Magic or realms must be viable. And if a major part of your story is based on something unfamiliar, research as much as you can. I've read books where it's glaringly evident the author has never been to Australia, and other books where I would swear the author lived there for some time, only to learn they hadn't. They just researched everything they could find, talked to people, read.
When you're faking it? Keep in mind that readers know. So fake it good. Good enough that they're surprised you're still sick. Or whatever.
I need a nap. And a comb, apparently.