I love ‘em both: creating ideas and digging deep in research. Even when I am writing pure fiction – a dragon waiting for wings to grow – there are things to learn.
I use two sources: children’s books at the library where I am employed and the internet. That wingless dragon book leads me into the mythology section for dragon traits and the picture book area for the ways others have pictured dragons. Then I comb the internet for difference between Western and Eastern dragons, and always check to see if anyone else has recently published a story about wingless dragons! If so I might as well put it in a file for next decade or work on it until it is really unique.
For years I focused on Bible storybook writing where there is only one source: the Bible. Publishers vary on how close to Holy Scripture the story has to be. Can I introduce talking animals? Can I put words in anyone’s mouth or only use direct quotes? Can I fill in settings with information I know is culturally accurate? Then I research the abilities and interests of the intended reader. What are children at various ages capable of understanding about terms like “crucifixion” and “incarnation”? What is the attention span of each age? (Pictured: Robin Currie's Baby Bible Stories about Jesus, Cook Communications, reissued with new art, 2009.)
Recently I may have found my real place in the publishing world: Edu-tainment: fun stories that teach new ideas and cultures with words introduced in glossary or sidebars. Who doesn’t want to know more about the arctic or the Sonora desert?