Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tips for Writing Research

by DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Writing and research go hand in hand. Every topic, whether fiction or non-fiction, needs an element of research. If the manuscript isn’t accurate, the reader will recognize the flaw and toss your work aside. If a writer is spot-on, she will be rewarded with good reviews and more readers. Sort of a no-brainer for us writers.

How do we conduct the process effectively and efficiently?
  • Focus: List what is needed for the writing project in chronological order. This includes setting, characters, dialogue, and culture.
  • Develop: What specialty people need to be contacted to ensured reliable information.
  • Map: Where does the writer need to visit for experience and sensory perception?

The following questions and suggestions will help the writer focus, develop, and map out a strategic plan.

  • 1. Visit the area’s chamber of commerce.
  • 2. Conduct a web search of the area. Some apps will help you with this: Google Maps, Google Earth, Weather Bug, or travel sites that can be found via apps or websites.
  • 3. Take or download more pictures than you think you’ll ever use.
  • 4. Interview people living in the area. For a historical setting, this also means reading diaries and journals. How has history affected the community?
  • 5. Listen to how local people talk. Do they use a distinct vocabulary?
  • 6. What are the community’s values and expectations for life and each other?
  • 7. What is their diet? How much of their food supply is local?
  • 8. How is the area governed?
  • 9. What are the local hotels? Restaurants? What’s featured on the menus? Any daily specials?
  • 10. What are the sources of entertainment?
  • 11. How do the residents celebrate holidays?
  • 12. Does the community have special festivals?
  • 13. How does the area experience the seasons, and what are average temperatures?
  • 14. What are the medical concerns? What kind of medical care is available?
  • 15. In what kinds of homes do they live?
  • 16. Where do they shop?
  • 17. How do the people dress?
  • 18. Do the arts play a vital role in the community?
  • 19. How do the people view education, sports teams, and favorite colleges?
  • 20. How do they earn a living?

Other Considerations
  • 21. If the area is near a national or state park, look for research material in the visitors’ section.
  • 22. Discover the wildlife and birds of the region.
  • 23. Locate a map of the area.
  • 24. Visit the local library. View newspaper archives.
  • 25. Look for documentaries on the area.

When a writer is cognizant of what is needed to make a manuscript zip with authenticity, readers clamor for more.

How do you conduct writing research?


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. 

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association; International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is co-director of The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. 

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. 

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at


  1. Great info, DiAnn. Saving this for future reference. :)

  2. Love these hints (many I wouldn't have thought of on my own) and will share them with my writers group. Thanks, DiAnn!