Research: When is enough, enough?

Outside the Great Western Hotel, Coolgardie, 1894

I have always said that a good story is never really finished. If the characters resonate with a reader, they stay in the mind, circling around, expanding and developing other possibilities, exploring other connections.

It’s the same with research. Every time I say to myself, ‘yes, I can write this book now,’ I find that there is something else that I need to know. As I write descriptions and dialogue, construct scenes and develop characters I am constantly finding questions that need answering. This is when I wish that time-travel had become a reality and was not confined to the rhelms of fantasy and science fiction. It would solve so many of my problems if I could simply go back to Coolgardie in the 1890s and talk to Clara, Jack, Podraig, ‘Dryblower’ Murphy and ‘Smiler’ Hales.
What I do have, though, is the Museum in Coolgardie where the curators have done a fantastic job of preserving and displaying the dwellings, the tools, the photographs of Arthur Bayley, William Ford and many others. Then there’s Duncan, who lives in Warden Finnerty’s House, and whose family has always lived in the area. He has heard the stories of the gold rush first-hand from the old-timers since he was a boy. And Tim Moore, who works in the archives of the City of Kalgoorlie. He can put his hand on  books and documents that verify (or not) the newspaper reports and recollections of locals past and present. There is a mine of information to be explored and processed, but without spending a lifetime on the research and never completing the book, how do I decide when enough is enough?

I’m still working it out, and having a lot of fun in the process.

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