Writer Research

I’m not great at research – I could never be a historical writer. But you’d be surprised how much research goes into even a contemporary book. I write about the West, and I’ve been to a lot of the places I write about (most on a motorcycle), but I’m writing my second ‘road trip’ book in a row, and there’s no way I could have been to all these small towns and back roads…or if I have, I don’t remember them!

So that means lots of maps, measuring miles between places, and TONS of internet searching!

Photo of the map of my latest road trip – and my cat, Harlie

But maps only take you so far (no pun intended). To write a location convincingly, you also need to know the ‘lay of the land’ – the terrain, the demographics, and the ‘feel’ of the place. I find that realtor web pages and homes for sale in the area give you a good cross section of that.

Downtown Sedona
Downtown Seattle


Historic Seattle building turned into a condo






Then there’s the really good stuff! I get to look up everything from clothes to tractors to cool motorcycles, and put them into books! I’m telling you, this writing gig can be FUN!

A dress my character wore to an art gallery opening
The motorcycle two sisters are riding in my current work-in-progress
My heroine’s almost-boyfriend. Oh yeah.








I also get to make up places. For example, in my last romance series, Chestnut Creek, I made up the small town of Unforgiven, New Mexico. It’s small, with a weedy town square with a paint-flaking gazebo in the middle. A lot of the buildings surrounding it have butcher papered over windows. The hub is the diner, housed in an old railroad depot. That was so fun to write, and had me searching for old depot photos and diner interiors. Oh, and more heros!







I’m telling you, there are a lot worse careers than writing fiction!


So tell me, have you ever thought of writing a book? If so, what genre would it be? Do you have a story in mind? If so, tell us a bit about it!



Website | + posts

Laura Drake is a New York and self-published published author of Women's Fiction and Romance.
Her romance series, Sweet on a Cowboy, is set in the world of professional bull riding. Her debut, The Sweet Spot, was a double-finalist, then won the 2014 Romance Writers of America® RITA® award. She’s since published 12 more books. She is a founding member of Women's Fiction Writers Assn, as well as a member of Western Writers of America and Women Writing the West.
Laura is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She's a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.

23 thoughts on “Writer Research”

  1. I am an avid reader, Because I have at least three books going at all times (fiction ebook, non-fiction, and an audible), I average reading about a book a day. However, I also like writing. I even had a poem published when I was in the eighth grade, but historical fiction would be my preferred genre. I’m a history major.

    • Oh Janice, you should try writing a book! Avid reader here, too. I’m amazed how much of story structure I learned through osmosis, just by reading all my life.

  2. I actually wrote a book years ago, and then trashed it. I’m much better at reading than writing!! I guess today it would have been a cowboy book, back then, there wasn’t that genre!

  3. No, I’m not a writer. I remember in school having to make up a story about something. I had to think, and think, and think. I got it wrote down and I think it was average, but I sure wouldn’t want to do it for a living. If I did write something, I would write about the old west, love the stories others write.

  4. I have thought about writing and have created many stories in my mind over the years. I used to make up stories to tell my younger siblings about my nightly escapades with Peter Pan when I was in grade school. In early high school, I did start writing a book, a western historical. My family found it and spent one dinner time reading it and ridiculing what I did. From plot, to language, to how stupid I was to think I could write anything. I haven’t written since. I have enjoyed creating the stories in my mind. They range from historical to suspenses, some continuing the stories I read in books and didn’t want to see end. At my age, it is no time to start putting pen to paper. I will have to be satisfied with commenting on blogs, etc.

    Just a comment on an author having visited the setting for their book. I realize it is not really a possibility in most cases. However, I have visited the settings of some of the books I’ve read, sometimes before and sometimes after reading the books. In several cases it was obvious the author had been there (in one case a rather remote area). I knew right where the characters were standing and what the area was like and what they saw. Many readers won’t really have that experience but it adds so much more to those of us who do. One author does western contemporary intrigue. A couple of others writing about New Orleans – one historical and on contemporary suspense – had the atmosphere spot on. In the case of the historical series, I could explore the city and find the places they spoke of. After getting home and reading the rest of the series, it was nice to be able to know where they were, from where they were viewing events, and just where they were in the city.

    Good luck with your research. You have traveled enough to create your own fictional town and vicinity, and make it most believable. The best part is, no matter what you write, it will be accurate.

    • Thanks for commenting Patricia – so much to talk about here! First, it’s never too late to start writing. Even if you choose that no one sees it but you, wouldn’t that be a ‘so there’ in the face of those who ridiculed you? So sorry you endured that.

      I’m so with you on having been to sites – I just KNEW what New Orleans would be like from reading. When I finally went there? Even the food was the same as I pictured it! And I love it when a book is set somewhere I really know…like I’m sharing memories with someone I never met!

      Yes, fictional towns (though you still have to get the lay of the land right) is so freeing – want the high school to be here, not over there? Want the team to be the Billy Goats instead of the Spartans? Done! Want the café on the square to be in an abandoned railway depot? Eureka!

      God, I love writing!

  5. I have been encouraged by a few writers that I should write a book. It has not moved any further. Between my health issues, my husband’s health and my parents, I have not had any time to think about what I would like to do.

Comments are closed.