A Writer’s Guide to Research by Deb Joelle

Research a writers guide to the different terms and their meanings

In Depth – research that must be completed outside the home, prior to even one word being committed to paper. Usually involves many cups of tea or coffee on location, so ambiance can be soaked up. Also, writer must carry either a small notebook and expensive pen, or a Mac Air. Total immersion in subject being studied is required.

Time frame to complete – 3-12 months

Fact Checking – a quick break from actual writing to surf the internet to verify a single fact. Usually involves Google, Facebook, and Twitter, as other writer opinions are necessary. Also, it is advisable to email 3-4 people to find out if they have any personal experience regarding needed fact.

30-45 minutes

Business Research – the reading of agent, editor, and other writer blogs. Also, articles linked to by said agents, editors, and bloggers. Leaving comments is a must in order to forge a sense of writerly community.

1-2 hours prior to workday, 30 minute check-in at lunch, and end of day follow-up.

Expert Opinions – phone calls to experts in the field of research made after initial email contact. These calls must be made during business hours even if the expert is your mom. You need to ascertain a feeling for the language they use. Also to set up future lunch or coffee meetings in order to view and capture authentic gestures and facial expressions.

15-30 minutes for phone calls, 2 hours for coffee or lunch

Travel – it’s imperative to travel everywhere any character in your WIP does, no matter how minor the character. Trips to local restaurants, using the same mode of transportation your character uses (yes, you really do need to rent a Porche for the day if your character drives one) will help your fiction ring true. Adding actual cracks in the sidewalks, text from garage sale posters on telephone poles, and  descriptions of people waiting for the bus will make the difference between being a midlist writer and a NBA finalist. Foreign travel and road trips are even more important and should be included in every manuscript. You cannot simply imagine the vocal inflections of a Southerner saying, “She was as nervous as a whore in church.” You have to hear it, feel it, absorb it if you’re looking to breathe life into your manuscript!

Varies depending on where you’re traveling.

Tax Deductible Research* – possibly the most important research category. Everything a writer does, buys, eats, consumes, uses, and gives away is tax deductible if you use it in a manuscript (and it doesn’t have to be the one your writing – it can be a future book that you just think you might want to write). Save all receipts because you can write off everything from the more common writer’s tools – books, magazines, newspapers, pens, and computers – to…well, everything. Think big! Dental work, cable TV, dry cleaning (what great book doesn’t have some dry cleaning in it?). And don’t forget chocolate. That’s right, you can write off all the chocolate you can eat as long as there’s someone in your book who’s addicted to it.


And now you know all there is to know about writing research.

*The Debutante Ball’s legal team, after careful research, has discovered that I am not a tax accountant, either here in Canada, or the US and would like me to add this disclaimer. Write chocolate off at your own risk of an audit.


9 Replies to “A Writer’s Guide to Research by Deb Joelle”

  1. ‘Dental work’! Yesssss! My braces were a necessary expense in support of my publicity photo, right?


    *notices I didn’t open my mouth in publicity photo*



  2. “Adding actual cracks in the sidewalks, text from garage sale posters on telephone poles, and descriptions of people waiting for the bus will make the difference between being a midlist writer and a NBA finalist.”

    *Runs out to check sidewalk cracks on location, notices with despair all sidewalks covered in about 12 inches of snow*

Comments are closed.