One of the nice things about deciding to be a writer is that I am never wasting time now. No matter what I'm doing, I'm either writing, or doing research. Even my day job can be counted as research, I suppose. I certainly get some interesting ideas for characters from some of the people I've worked with.
But the best part is it gives me license to study anything that catches my interest. So I'm not idly browsing the net, now I'm doing research. Maybe not for a current book, but maybe for a future one. Watching Ultimate Fighting? Research for a character I'm writing who's an amateur MMA fighter. Eighteenth Century British poetry? Research for the English class my characters are in. Standing around in the store listening to random songs off new albums? Research for my DJ character. So anything that takes my fancy can be seen as research for my writing.
I've never felt more productive in my life. :)
Even going on a random wikiwalk can be research. After all, it's often the unexpected that turns out to be just what I really needed. Then again, I often live by chaos anyway. To quote Harry Potter: "We make these plans, then we go in and everything goes to hell." It seems the more I plan out in advance, the less successful things are. I prefer a style of prepare in general, but don't really plan. Like if I'm going camping, I'll bring everything I think I might need, and then see what happens when I get there.
When it comes to writing, I find it's when I have a grasp on the character and their situation, I finally can write the book. I usually try not to have any idea where I'm going, other than maybe a vague idea of story arc. Because when I try nailing it down ahead of time, it just dies.
I know there are a lot of people who tell you to make an outline. Honestly, I've tried. the one book I did that with, I wrote the outline when I was halfway through the book. Then I lost the outline. I didn't find it again until I was through the second revision of the book, and realized it bore no resemblance to the story I'd written. Not even the rough draft. And I liked my final version much better, because I had discovered things about the character and her situation in the writing that I hadn't realized when I wrote that outline.
So I just try to trust my characters and my subconscious to help me tell a great story.
Of course, this post is probably in danger of becoming a wikiwalk itself, so I'll let it go for now. Hope everyone (if anyone else is reading this) has a great New Year.