When I was in college, I took a creative nonfiction class and we were given an assignment to write a travel essay. I chose to recount a day trip to Napa Valley, having just spent the summer in California, and I remember having a difficult time describing the scenery. All I could think was that it was very green in Napa in July, so I defaulted to the word “green” a little too frequently. My professor was not impressed. She wanted me to be more specific. But I just couldn’t remember the specifics well enough to be convincing. Had I been an actual travel writer, I probably would have had photos and notebooks to review.
I am having this problem in my novel, as well, but wherever I stumble on a detail, I am writing a note to myself in [brackets] – which is what I do in technical writing as well when I’m missing a detail that I need to investigate. I don’t want to get hung up on browsing the Web for “weather at night in Nebraska in May” and lose my train of thought during my somewhat limited writing time.
Yesterday I took a few minutes at work and researched the weather in various cities in May at different times of day, the elevation of Kings Beach, what port tastes like (I think I will just have to buy a bottle and try it myself in this case), and now I am going to search for photos of Wyoming along I-80.