12 Mar

I love finding things that make writing easier. It’s all about the details. And if you don’t get them right, you throw off the story. Readers do check. I’m in the middle of a story set in the fall. My problem? Sunrise and sunset. I can’t have my characters strolling around in the sun at 7:30 when the sun set at 6:53. Bad form. I found a great website that takes care of all those nasty sun details. It’s especially great because you can set it for any place in the world. Not only that but it goes back in time. I got tired of clicking the back button to 1940.

It also tells you what phase the moon is in. It might be very picky to know what phase the moon is in, but it’s one more thing you don’t have to worry about. If your day is October 16, 1940 (no I’m not going to click forward to 2013), we find out that the sun rose at 6:51, set at 17:53 (or 5:53 civilian time), but that the moon rose at 6:17 and set at 7:06, and it was full. If you like you can use UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) or GMT (Greenwich Mean Time.)

Where can you find all this wonderful information? At And to make things even better, you can print off your year of choice. Having a hard copy right in front of me is so handy. I can mark it up or change the day so it works for what I need.

Another great resource is to search the native plants for the area you’re writing about. It will give you pictures of the plants and that, in turn, will give you all you need to put the right plants in the right area.calander2

I know none of this is new information, but it is something we need to remember to use. It’s so tempting just to rely on memory and keep writing, but don’t give in. The more realism you can sift into your work, the more the reader will subconsciously buy the premise. And, after all, isn’t that the goal? Keep the reader grounded in the story.

Keep the research close at hand and use it.

I love nothing more than to have a bunch of relevant websites bookmarked.

What are your go-to websites?


Posted by on March 12, 2013 in Blogs, writing, writing craft


22 responses to “Discoveries

  1. Suzie Quint

    March 12, 2013 at 2:02 AM

    Fabulous site. Thanks for sharing.

    One of my favorites has always been Patricia Wrede’s worldbuilding questions that now resides at sfwa’s site. The questions are primarily for fantasy writers, but reading through them can jog your brain into thinking about aspects of any story that you might be overlooking.

    • Peggy Staggs

      March 12, 2013 at 8:54 AM

      The more sources the better. I love things that make me stop and rethink.

  2. Janis McCurry

    March 12, 2013 at 7:08 AM

    Hmm, I usually just find what I need as I go…except for the dictionary. I use it all the time. Such a simple thing to actually find a correct spelling on or the like rather than wait for your copy editor to find it.

    • Peggy Staggs

      March 12, 2013 at 8:55 AM

      I love going to the dictionary in search of a new word or a better way to say something.

  3. Judith Keim

    March 12, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    What a great blog, Peggy. You’re right. Details make the story more believable. I use my online Thesaurus all the time. Then when I have a question I go right to the internet. But I confess there are times when I could, should fill in more detail. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Peggy Staggs

      March 12, 2013 at 8:57 AM

      Details make the story more real. I have a few websites that I trust and always visit.

  4. marsharwest

    March 12, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    Great post, Peggy, and thanks for the website. I expect I’ll use it a lot. The details, I love the details. Maybe it’s things someone else wouldn’t pick up, but I really hate to read a book where the dates don’t make sense. All that couldn’t have happened in two days. It always takes at least a week for whatever. In our instant society, we expect things to happen in a blink of an eye (major cliche alert!).
    You have to be careful if you’re using things that people in that region know about. I wanted to use a particular activity for a story, but everyone in my area knows that takes place in January not fall. I had to pick something else. Thanks again for the web site. My main tools are real paper calendars to keep track of time, the Thesauras, and yes good old fashioned dictionary. Used it just yesterday to check how to “peel” as in “peeling up your eyelids” for a blog I was writing. “Peal” is for the bell tolling. 🙂

    • Peggy Staggs

      March 12, 2013 at 9:00 AM

      I know what you mean about the getting the details right. I love TV shows that can get DNA results, or full drug panels in hours instead of days. I do suspend reality for them because the alternative would ruin the story.

  5. Corina Mallory

    March 12, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    What a great resource! I’ll definitely add that to my bookmark list. One of my favorites, one that I’m sure everyone already knows, is the SSA database of popular baby names ( ). I’ve found it really helpful in giving characters names that are age and time-period appropriate. (At least for American characters.) Another one I use all the time is actually YouTube. Because I write romantic suspense, I frequently have my characters doing things I’ve never done (disabling an attacker, hotwiring a car etc.) and you’d be amazed at the things that people will not only tell you, but SHOW you how to do on YouTube. It’s a phenomenal resource for getting the details of an action you may never have performed, or even seen, right.

    • Peggy Staggs

      March 12, 2013 at 10:13 AM

      YouTube is so valuable and scary when you think that you’re not the only one out there looking for how to break in to whatever. And those others are not writing books.
      I love baby name websites. I’m going to bookmark yours.

  6. Clarissa Southwick

    March 12, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    Thanks for the great resources, Peggy. Like you, I always worry about those moon-lit nights, especially when I’m writing historicals.

  7. Peggy Staggs

    March 12, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    Moon light nights. It wasn’t long ago that the moon was at its closest point to earth. I was huge and very romantic.

  8. Susan Russo Anderson

    March 12, 2013 at 7:26 PM

    Thanks for this, great post!

  9. Lynn Mapp

    March 12, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    Hey, Peggy. Thanks for sharing that information. I’m still old school. Thesaurus.

    • Peggy Staggs

      March 13, 2013 at 8:54 AM

      I know what you mean. I never write without my Theaurus open.

  10. stephanieberget

    March 13, 2013 at 2:09 PM

    Great website, Peggy. Thanks. I use the Thesaurus and online dictionary most often and Wikipedia all the time.

    • Peggy Staggs

      March 15, 2013 at 5:35 PM

      I have both of those booked marked as well. They are so valuable.

  11. Jennifer

    March 13, 2013 at 9:30 PM

    Interesting! It’s great to have that information at your fingertips. I don’t really have a favorite website. I google everything!

    • Peggy Staggs

      March 15, 2013 at 5:37 PM

      I do like to have all my research material printed out. I can waste so much time hunting around. It’s a matter of wandering off topic.

  12. maryvine

    March 14, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    You’re right, Peggy, details matter. When I watch TV and see something that’s not right it takes me out of the story. I take a minute to complain to my husband before I start watching again. Poor guy.

    • Peggy Staggs

      March 14, 2013 at 1:38 PM

      You are so right. It is frustrating when people who actually get paid for writing do things that bump you out of the story.


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