Monday, May 24, 2021

Writing Research: Do You Delve or Dive?

by Ane Mulligan @AneMulligan

Whether you write contemporary or historical fiction, you will need to do research. Otherwise, you could find yourself fifty-thousand words into a manuscript and discover you've written your characters into a conundrum without a way out. I know from experience. 

Now some writers do all their research before they start writing, taking trips to near and faraway places before they begin internet searches. For those of us who are more seat-of-the-pants writers, that's not always an option. We might have the location in mind and could do a road trip, but we don't always know WHAT we need to research.


I must admit, delving can cause you to change somethign already written. But that's part of being a SOTP writer. Case in point: I was working on the second book in my Georgia Magnolias series, On Sugar Hill. The series is set during the early years of the Great Depression. Although I was raised in the South, it was not in Georgia. I grew up with electricity. Atlanta and other large cities had electricity. I had no idea rural Georgia did not have any until the 1950s. That tidbit came up when I was researching another aspect. Talk about being gobsmacked!


Warning: once can get lost in research, especially if you love it. But whether you delve or dive, I have accumulated a list of sites that has helped me and thought I'd share it. All of these are free sites to use. 

Valuable Research Sites for Writers


Online Etymology Dictionary: This is the place to check if the saying or word you use is appropriate for the timeline of your novel. There is nothing worse than reading historical fiction and coming across a word that is or sounds too modern. It yanks you right out of the story. 


The People History: Gives you a good overview the era and the decades, along with links to more detailed information, like This Day in History.


The Food Timeline: Here, you can research different foods like meats or grains, etc. and find out what was in common use during the timeline of your story. It also has recipes from different decades.


Glossary of Medical Terms of the 18th & 19th Centuries: This speaks for itself and is very helpful.


Behind the Name: I think names are important. Names create an image or personality in our characters. This site tells the origin and what the name means. Its sister site is for surnames. Coupled with The Baby Name Survey Book which divulges what people think of when they see or hear a name, these sites will help you find interesting names for your characters. You can also use the Social Security site for the most popular names from 1880 on.


The Postal History Corner: This site gives the cost of postage and shows photos of the stamps.


The Idiom Site: This one is a bit of fun. You cannot only find idioms but give your own spin to them.


Century Past (newspapers): This site has a ton of great information besides newspapers, like historical articles.


Sunrise Sunset Calendars: You can make a calendar for the city, month, and year you need and print it. It lists places all over the world. 


Time and Date: Choose the year, create, and print the calendar for your story. 


These are a few of my favorites. Do you have some to share with me and our readers? Leave them in the comments.



Writing Research: Do you delve or dive? @AneMulligan on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)


On Sugar Hill releases June 1st

She traded Sugar Hill for Vaudeville. Now she’s back.


The day Cora Fitzgerald turned sixteen, she fled Sugar Hill for the bright lights of New York City, leaving behind her senator-father’s verbal abuse. But just as her career takes off, she’s summoned back home. And everything changes. 


The stock market crashes. The senator is dead. Her mother is delusional, and her mute Aunt Clara pens novels that expose the town’s secrets. Then there’s Boone Robertson, who never knew she was alive back in high school, but now manages to be around whenever she needs help. 


Will the people of her past keep her from a brilliant future?

Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw Mary Martin in PETER PAN, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. Years later, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her websiteAmazon Author pageFacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest and The Write Conversation.


  1. Thanks so much for your information. Can’t wait to read On Sugar Hill.

  2. Thanks so much for your information. Can’t wait to read On Sugar Hill.

  3. Thanks so much for your information. Can’t wait to read On Sugar Hill.

  4. Thanks so much for the great resources, Ane! And congratulations on your upcoming release.

  5. Wow - thanks for the great list, Ane, appreciate it
    June 1st? - exciting! Expecting it will go over great for you...! :)

    1. Thanks so much. I hope the list has some new resources for you.

  6. Wonderful resources! Thank you so much!

  7. This post is most helpful. Thank you.

  8. Excellent sources. Thank you for sharing the links, Ane.