I write the story first. The few times I’ve had a great idea that I needed to research before I could write, nothing happened. Rule of thumb: if you need to do research before you can write it, it’s not for you. If the story works first, then I go places, take notes, read books. I once wanted to write a book about a clone of a successful Pope. I went to the Vatican, read history, read about Catholicism–but I didn’t have the story. I think I needed to be Catholic in my bones to write it. I don’t think research can give you the heart of a story. If you are the person to write it, the first draft will be there for you. Research will contradict you, make you change the plot and the characters and what they say…but the heart of the story must be there first. I am never as happy as when I’m doing research.
Geoff is a genius, and I love this perspective on where research fits into his writing process.