Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to Research a Location for Your Latest Book by Allie Pleiter, Guest Author

How to research a location for your latest book

One of my favorite parts of writing a book is location research.  Here’s my plan of attack for when I visit the setting for my upcoming book:

1.       Get a basic working knowledge of the location

My favorite first step is to attack a guidebook (or three) with a highlighter and post-it notes.  I’m wandering through the pages for anything that catches my fancy whether it makes sense to my concept of the book right now or not.  I also check for which movies are set there.  Larger cities and most states have tourism boards that can send you packages and brochures.  Internet and travel sites are also good places to get a basic sense of the area.

2.       Plan your trip

I like a four day spread, as it gives a good mix of weekday and weekend days, and often matches hotel promotional packages.  I’ve found that about 100 pages into my manuscript is the best time to go--I’m far enough into the story to know the gist of what I need, but early enough to be flexible if I uncover plot gold.  I find it best to book my trip right after I sign my contract.  It’s focused work--fun but fast-paced--so I usually go alone or with a hearty soul.  It’s great if you can go the location at the time of year your book is set, but I’ve found it’s not essential. 


Two months out or earlier
0  Book your airfare and rental car (remember you don’t always need one)

One month out
1.  Gather your contacts
0  Make a list of who you’d like to contact from what your research told you
0  Poll boards or lists for local colleagues willing to meet
0  Look for lodging – I’ve found B&B’s make wonderful home bases, and the owners are always willing to share info
2. Map out the specific sites you want to visit
0  Break your target area into quadrants - one for each day of your trip
0  Use Mapquest or other navigational software to map out all the targets in each quadrant for the most expedient route
0  Look at public transportation, too
3.  Start to make appointments
0  Now you know your general timeframe (“I'll be on the north side of town on Friday”)
0  Ask restaurants for their signature dishes
0  Ask professionals “What’s the most unusual thing you can tell me about ____”
0  Ask locals plot-based questions like “Where would you go to propose?” 

Two weeks out
0  Firm up your schedule and confirm appointments
0  Work out your a.m. and p.m. plans into written packets
0  Watch any movies you found on your database research
0  Browse for any books on or set in your target location
One week out
0  Arrange for any family commitments, etc. (the vacation hint)
0  Check the weather and plan your clothes accordingly
0  Make your packing list 

I love research trips--it’s the most useful fun you can have.  With a little planning, you can ensure that your trip gives you the details that make for a vivid manuscript while making you some wonderful memories.  Bon voyage!


Homefront Hero
Love Inspired Historical
May 2012
Dashing and valiantly wounded, Captain John Gallows could have stepped straight out of an army recruitment poster. Leanne Sample can't help being impressed—although the lovely Red Cross nurse tries to hide it. She knows better than to get attached to the daring captain who is only home to heal and help rally support for the war's final push. As soon as he's well enough, he'll rush back to Europe, back to war—and far away from South Carolina and Leanne. But when an epidemic strikes close to home, John comes to realize what it truly means to be a hero—Leanne's hero.

Author Bio:
An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and devoted chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction.  The enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie spends her days writing books, buying yarn, and finding new ways to avoid housework.  Allie hails from Connecticut, moved to the midwest to attend Northwestern University, and currently lives outside Chicago, Illinois.  The “dare from a friend” to begin writing has produced two parenting books, fourteen novels, and various national speaking engagements on faith, women’s issues, and writing.  Visit her website at or her knitting blog at


  1. Delighted to be here! I love to do hands-on research, and have had some wonderful adventures visiting the locations of my books.

  2. Thanks for visiting! You have some great tips here.