5 Essential Research Tips for Fiction Writers

5 Essential Research Tips for Fiction Writers

essential research tips for fiction writers

Author and book coach Meredith R. Stoddard is visiting today to share 5 essential research tips for fiction writers. I met Meredith because we both had chapters included in Launchpad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book and were interviewed on a YouTube show together. Her chapter is full of valuable advice on how to do research, so I asked her if she would share some tips for my audience. Her post is below.

What can a fantasy author tell you about researching fiction? First, that it doesn’t matter what genre you write; believability is key. For everything from historical fiction to sci-fi, keeping your readers immersed in your story depends on making them believe what you are writing. That means that even when writing about the magic system in a fantasy book, or describing a government in a dystopian world, we have to start by grounding it in something familiar to your audience. Those things that readers already know to be true are the foundation that we can use to build castles, spaceships, and fairy realms. Even a fantasy writer like me, has to ground some things in reality, or at least the semblance of reality.

#1 Put yourself in your characters’ shoes

Building a credible world for your characters to move through, and telling how your characters relate to that world means that we need to know everything from what they eat to how they sleep. Where do your characters shop? What do they wear? Which jobs do they have? What kind of laws affect their daily lives?

Fortunately, YouTube is full of videos showing people walking through places, and activities that can give you clues. You can search for “day in the life” videos by location, profession, or demographic. There are videos of markets and grocery stores, and cooking videos of national or regional dishes. All of these things can give you ideas for describing how your characters live. If your settings are real, you can use Google Street View to walk around many places in the world.

#2 Research for all five senses

You’ve probably heard that you should write for all five senses. That means you should also research for all five senses. Your readers are going to want to know what your fictional world and even your characters smell like. They’ll want to know the sounds, tastes, textures, and sights of the world you’re creating and how your characters perceive them. Pay attention to those details while researching. Those details will draw your readers in.

#3 Look for more than just the facts

The way we and our characters experience the world is subjective. Just as much as facts make your work believable, giving your readers opinions and letting them react to the world around them is important. This helps with characterization and gives your work an emotional punch. Reaction videos and product reviews are great sources for understanding people’s opinions and seeing how they react to events. Listening to people tell their own stories is also helpful.

#4 Use Smart Search Terms

The amount of information on the internet is ever-expanding. Sifting through that information to find what you need can be difficult and overwhelming sometimes. Search engines help, but sometimes getting the exact results you’re looking for is a challenge. You can make search engines work for you by using some simple commands to refine your searches.

Putting your terms inside quotation marks will search for your terms exactly, while adding a tilde in front will include synonyms for the words you’re searching on. A dash before a word in your search terms will exclude the word that follows it. This is useful for narrowing searches of common terms. You can specify the kind of results you’re looking for by using location: or filetype: before your search terms. All of these refinements can help you sift through the volumes of information and get the results you need.

 

#5 Check your sources

Unfortunately, the internet is also full of misinformation or articles that are out-of-date. When you find the information you’re looking for, you should make note of the sources of the information. Because it is so easy to post articles on the internet, it’s important to be skeptical of the information you find. If you’re looking for facts, be sure to use multiple sources for confirmation. Know the business model of websites you are using as sources and be conscious of the potential for bias. Wikipedia is a great resource, but it is crowd-sourced so its accuracy will vary. It does require that editors include their sources, so it makes a good bibliography. You can also use fact-checking websites like Factcheck.org, MediaBiasFactCheck.com and Snopes.com.

There is a lot more I could say about researching for fiction. In fact, I wrote a chapter on researching for Launchpad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book with more details. The key thing to remember is that everything we read or observe feeds into what we write. The best research for fiction is observing the world and the people around us.

The Once & Future Series

research tips for fiction writers

Celtic legends and modern life collide in this saga of a contemporary woman coming to grips with a destiny set in motion generations ago. Inspired by her unusual childhood in rural Appalachia, Sarah MacAlpin is set on pursuing a career as a folklorist. She had a rough start in life but has worked tirelessly to set herself on the right track. Just when Sarah comes closest to reaching her professional goals, a startling revelation turns her whole world upside down.

The River Maiden, book 1 of the Once & Future series is free on most ebook platforms.

Launch Pad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book

book for writers to read

You can read Meredith’s chapter on research and my chapter on grammar in Launch Pad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book.

Each focused chapter brings authors and would-be-authors closer to the creation of a story well told and ready for publication. The brainchild of entrepreneur, author, and speaker, Grace Sammon, this book series builds on the wildly popular radio show LAUNCH PAD – celebrating book releases and the authors who create them. With countdown tips, ways to connect directly to the authors, and bonus downloadable planning sheets, LAUNCH PAD delivers a craft book that speaks right to you.

Buy it on Amazon.

More About Meredith

Meredith R. Stoddard is the author of folklore-inspired fiction including her Once & Future Series, a contemporary fantasy series that blends Celtic legends with modern life. She is also a book coach at The Book Grower, and the Communications Director of Bookish Road Trip, a community of readers, writers, and travel lovers where she hosts an Instagram Live program called Author Ride Along. She is a contributor to the Launch Pad Countdown series on writing, publishing and marketing books from Red Penguin Books, and a member of Author Talk Network. Her latest novel Thistle & Lion will be released June 8th, 2023.

Visit her websites:

http://meredithstoddard.com/

http://thebookgrower.com/

 

3 Great Podcasts For Writers And Book Lovers #writingprocess #writingtips

3 Great Podcasts For Writers And Book Lovers #writingprocess #writingtips

podcasts for writers

Recently, I was featured on three podcasts for writers and book lovers, and wanted to tell you a little bit about each appearance. As you may know, I LOVE talking about books and writing. I’m grateful to have had the chance to do both during these interviews.

Between the Covers

First, host Stephanie Larkin of Red Penguin Books interviewed a few contributing writers to the new release, Launch Pad: The Countdown To Writing Your Book. This craft book is designed to help writers navigate the emotional ups and downs of finishing a novel, and was led by Emma Dhesi and Grace Sammon.

The episode features interviews with Susanne Dunlap, author of The Courtesan’s Daughter and a certified book coach; Meredith Stoddard, author of The River Maiden: Once & Future Series; Carol Van Den Hende, author of Goodbye, Orchid; and myself.

We discussed our writing processes, what’s inside the Launch Pad book, and valuable tips for writers.

You can watch the episode and learn more about the book here, or watch it below on YouTube.

eReads Podcast

I also had a lively discussion with Liz Bullard on the eReads Podcast.We discussed things like the perfect desk chair and how my chiropractor reprimanded me for working on my recliner. ☹️

Last year, when I was having neck and upper back soreness, he advised me to buy an ergonomic desk chair with a headrest. Some of you know my obsession with office supplies.

I mean, it takes me 45 minutes to pick out pens. Imagine how long it took for me to pick out a $300 chair.

I felt like Goldilocks, sitting on all the office chairs at Staples.

Too hard.

Too soft.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything just right, but I found one that was comfortable enough . . .

Well, after I bought a special cushion on Amazon.

I still occasionally use my Chromebook on my recliner, but I’m much more aware of my posture!

Anyway, Liz and I talked about a lot more than desk chairs and chiropractors.

I also shared some helpful editing and time management tips. If you’d like to listen, you can check out the episode here.

During the episode, Liz also asked me to share a writing prompt. I gave her one that I used to use a lot: I remember. All you do is free write starting with the words, I remember . . . and see what comes out.

You can read what Liz wrote here. 

Pencils & Lipstick Podcast

Last but not least, my good friend Kat Caldwell interviewed me on her Pencils & Lipstick podcast. This was the third or fourth time I’ve been on the show, and Kat and I always have a good time. The topic of the day was body language and nonverbal communication.

We delved into what those terms mean for writers, why it’s important, common mistakes that writers make, how to freshen up your characters’ emotions, and how to write creative emotional descriptions. You can listen to the episode here or watch it on YouTube below.

 

 

Launch Pad Has Launched! A New Craft Book For Writers To Read #amwriting

Launch Pad Has Launched! A New Craft Book For Writers To Read #amwriting

Looking for just the right balance of inspiration, skill building, and a toolbox of writing craft tips? I know just the resource for you. It’s a brand new craft book for writers to read, called LAUNCH PAD: The Countdown to Writing Your Book. 

I’m excited to have a chapter included in this jam-packed guide for writers, which gives you the literal ‘launch pad’ for your first (or next!) book. I contributed a chapter on grammar and punctuation, and in it, I delve into the Oxford Comma and how to use it, colons and semicolons, ellipses, and much more.

If you’re intimidated by the thought of outlining your novel or creating rich and complex characters, or want to learn the secret to writing a great scene, Launch Pad has you covered. Learn why using the right point of view in your book is so important and how to choose the right one. Nail those pesky grammar and punctuation slip-ups once and for all and get yourself ‘query ready’.

Grammar and Punctuation guide for authors

You’ll also get practical advice on how to research smarter, which tools to use and what you can do if you want to go the extra mile; learn what book coaching is, how it differs from editing, how a coach helps you write your book, and how you can find the right coach for you; and get tips on writing scenes that grab readers’ attention, draw them into your characters’ lives and the world you’ve created, and build up to the big moments you’re working toward later on in the story.

Other topics include: developing suspenseful scenes that hook readers; exploring the principles of world building, the best tools for the job, and how to get off the world building merry-go-round; learning about personality types, understanding the role genre plays in the character you write about, and how to find your character’s inner flaw; why you need to both show and tell if you want to uplevel your craft and pull your reader right into your character’s mind; and where to find critique groups (both in-person and virtual), what you can expect from them, and how they’ll help your writing long-term.

You’ll also discover the three things a publishing gatekeeper wants: knowledge, sparkle, and an attention to detail. Each focused chapter of this book brings authors and would-be-authors closer to the creation of a story well-told and ready for publication.

Order the book on Amazon.

You can find the other retail links and information about the authors here.

Below, you can also watch the book trailer.

 

Launch Pad Has Launched! A New Craft Book For Writers To Read #amwriting

Elevate Your Writing With This Essential Guide for Authors #writingtips

guide for authors

If you’re an author seeking inspiration, skill-building, and a toolbox of writing craft tips, then I have what you need. The new guide for authors, LAUNCH PAD: The Countdown to Writing Your Book, is scheduled for release on Feb. 28, 2023 and this eagerly anticipated book is a literal Launch Pad for your writing career.

I have a chapter included on the most common grammar and punctuation mistakes I see as a freelance developmental editor. This chapter covers everything from the proper use of the Oxford Comma, colons, and semicolons to ellipses and beyond.

grammar guide for authors

But that’s not all. As a special bonus, you can download a handy, free, pdf  that offers my ten grammar tips for cleaning up your novel. And to celebrate the book’s imminent release, one of the book’s editors, Emma Dhesi, has hosted a panel discussion featuring contributors.

In the discussion, we shared why we contributed to the book, the subject of our chapters, and what we hope readers will gain from our insights. 

Watch the replay of this panel discussion with Kat Caldwell, Lewis Jorstad, Samantha Skal, Janyre Tromp, Grace Sammon, and myself – you’ll get tons of tips about outlining, creating characters, grammar, and much more!

You can also watch Emma interview contributing authors Susanne Dunlap, Linda Rosen, Joe Bunting, Meredith R. Stoddard, Carol Van Den Hende, and Heather Davis in a second panel discussion below.

Find out more about this essential guide for authors here

Order it on Amazon.

 

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