Writer's research forums ?

Hi all, I am writing my first book in middle age.

I am looking for a forum or forums where writers share research info. From asking about local drinks and meals to weapon specifications to hospital information or MI5 warrant cards.

The advent of google maps and street view is an absolutely fabulous boon for writers. I don’t have to travel to a city and street to know what it looks like and the surroundings. Restaurants have their menus online.

But some things are just not that easy.

Does anyone know of any such forums ?

Would like to see this bumped as the research needs for info is often quite varied and unrelated.

My quest is for timeline facts pertaining to areas as they were in the 1960’s.
Specifically, I am interested in the business communities of Hamilton and Missoula Montana in the mid '60’s. Info which seems a bit tough to dig out for some reason.



Hi … I’m surprised there isn’t a forum specifically for writers to help each other wrt research. I have done a lot of searching but no luck yet.

Best to find forums or experts dedicated to specific subjects you need. Libraries local to your desired area will have plenty of information on the region covering the historic, the historical and the contemporary.

A forum devoted to covering the whole of human knowledge? Sounds a bit like Wikipedia?

On the topic of research I found this thread, which has a lot of useful links, though mostly American orientated.

Anyone have resources for non American sources ?

Yes: google.co.uk

I think that’s not an unfair point … But there are many things NOT in wikipedia. And often writers will have personal experience or will have researched something before and can share a resource. I use Googe/wikipedia/google street view a lot.

At the moment I am trying to find a house in London of a specific wealthy kind, in an area not known for it’s wealth. If an author who lives in London were to be part of a research site, they could help a lot. And I could reciprocate for writers looking for scientific or accounting and financial info.

:unamused: FFS.

If i want scientific info, I’ll ask a scientist. If I want accounting info, I’ll ask an accountant. If I don’t know any myself, I’ll find them (or libraries, museums and organisations devoted to those pursuits) using something like google. Writers of fiction are experts (some of them, anyway) in writing fiction. Don’t look for second hand research; do your own. Why allow (or worse, insist on) a secondary source to put their own artistic interpretation? You’re guaranteeing a derivative approach.

Nothing personal but I find this view point utter nonsense, for all of the perfectly obvious and self evident reasons that I won’t bother setting out.

I agree with pigfender.

But I would also add Google maps (especially street view) as a good research tool, along with YouTube.

There’s a Live Journal community set up for questions such as yours (I think). It’s fascinating reading even if you don’t have a question :wink:

All and any questions are welcomed, but it’s always a good idea to say what you’ve checked and how and if you’ve tried Google-fu and what your search terms were (i.e. read the journal rules before posting).


Quora might be useful. https://www.quora.com/

When I hear readers of fiction (or filmgoers) question “facts” in novels (or films), I just :unamused:

There is a scene in Tamara Drewe when a novelist at a book signing is called to account by a former military gent about a military term used in an earlier novel. The author offers unctuous thanks: aware of the gulf between them, and aware that there is no point in giving the military gent an explanation.

Perfectly nuanced and pitched.

That’s Posy Simmonds for you. See this from her Literary Life translation taken from my copy of Literary Life:
"… Funny, really, there were masses of people here lunchtime, but you never can tell, can you? I mean, last week we had Jilly here, we were really quite busy, but you know, you never can tell, can you…?"

Erm, ok? You’re certainly not obliged to listen to advice. Not even the good stuff. :wink:

I checked out the linked forum. Admitted I only clicked on one question, but it reinforced my view: Someone asking for other people’s descriptions of what certain alcohols taste like.

Quora is an interesting forum, in that you’re asking questions of specialists, although as anyone can (and do) answer, you’d still need to do some research yourself to verify the validity of responses. I’ve read some excellently written, persuasive and logical answers that are completely wrong. Hell, I probably wrote a few as well.

I am donning a fire-retardant suit in preparation as I right this, but why not try on the Nanowrimo forums. There’s folks out there who probably participate and may just love to feed you more information than you think you might need. And it’s all primary source stuff, possibly from some folks who lived through that era. I’d just try the reference desk which can be found here:


Other than that, yeah, local public libraries which may have online access to some of their databases. And all the other stuff that’s been previously mentioned.

I’ve been reading manuscripts from hopeful authors for many years, and it’s painfully easy to spot the works written from derivative crowd-sourced research and those from first-hand original sources.

The second-hand facts aren’t wrong (usually); they just tend to be rather numbingly the same: your 19th-century sea captain (flinty cowboy, taciturn Great War infantry lieutenant, Roman legionnaire) looks and talks and thinks and reacts pretty much like everyone else’s 19th-century sea captain (flinty cowboy, taciturn infantry lieutenant, Roman legionnaire). And yet original source materials–diaries, sketches, reminiscences, written-close-to-the-period histories–are widely available, providing a fresh new view of characters and depriving overbooked editors of an easy reason to reject a manuscript.

Why would anybody rely on a complete stranger, operating under a cloak of privacy on an internet forum, for facts? A terrible idea. If I am going to publish something, whether fact or fiction, I want to be able to stand over the research that underpins it and have full confidence in its accuracy. Maybe that’s because I’m an academic and not a fiction writer. Things can be much looser in fiction land: '69 Chevys apparently couldn’t have fuelie heads, but it’s still a hell of a song.

Some of the threads here on word usage/spelling are absolutely fascinating because they show how different perspectives/backgrounds provide different answers to seemingly straightforward questions.

It all probably depends on how fast and loose you’re prepared to play with your standards of accuracy. If all you need is an approximation of the truth, then Wikipedia and online forums should be perfect for your needs. If you’re looking for precision then pigfender is right. You have to do the spadework yourself.

I understand it’s for all of the perfectly obvious and self evident reasons?