I'm beginning to understand what I previously called procrastination, or diversionary tactics, when starting a new story. I used to wonder why each book scared the hell out of me until I was about two thirds of the way through the rough draft. I thought I was scared to commit. In a way I was, but not to the story, to the discovery of what the story was really about. I was afraid to kick back, spend time exploring, and just let the story unfold.
I now know this was simply the germination stage. You see, when you start out with a story idea it is really quite small. A seed, perhaps. Then it grows and flowers or fruits. Sometimes it will flourish and other times it gets all rangy and needs to be trimmed back, sometimes it dies. But from seed to maturation it needs many things: water, soil, nutriments, sunshine, occasional pruning, bug control, maybe even a different location to help it get the very best of all of these necessary things for its survival. Well, so does a story.
I've been having an enjoyable few weeks in my story idea's unfolding. I've visited the Salton Sea. I've researched abandoned cabins and veritable ghost towns. I've talked with photographers using modern digital equipment and photographers who will never change from their old equipment, plus I've looked into designing an in-home dark room. The funny thing is, all of this will feature in my story in about four or five paragraphs. But it's all part of that nurturing germination stage. A half a day spent to find one fabulous sentence, or one character motivation, isn't wasted time. It's a necessary part of the process, and I might be old-fashioned but I swear it beats doing research on the internet. That can be extremely helpful, but I like to think of it as putting on the finishing touches. The idea, the initial sketch, the outline, those are always taken from life. The color comes from life.
The writer who takes the time to research, to delve into why their characters choose one thing over another, make one choice instead of another, choose this person over that one to spend their life with, well, those are all the little crunchy bits that make those characters fully developed and interesting.