I use Google. A lot. And I find it invaluable when writing. Although, it is easy to pursue rabbit-trails, and I have to be careful to set aside writing time in which I am not allowed to switch to my web browser, if my word counts are low or I am having problems tackling the next scene. Sometimes Google searches are related to writing mechanics – how to format a manuscript properly, a tip or trick for Scrivener (such as “Scrivener search and replace tabs”), images for a cover, how to use a masking layer in Photoshop, or a shortcut key for Mac OS. But research related searches can get interesting when you write crime fiction! I often think about what an investigator or unsuspecting bystander might think if they saw my Google history. Some of my more provocative searches over the last few days have included:
- burner phones
- smoking with pneumothorax
- negotiating with a psychopath
- weight of brown heroine
- how to block caller I.D.
- prison slang
- can you get contact high from crack
Research articles that I Googled and clipped while drafting the book that I just finished included also included things like:
- DIY tattoo ink
- _____ County Juvenile Detention Rules
- Stories by Foster Youth
- Sociopath Story and Experience
- Juvenile Probation Officer Job Description
- Terms and Conditions of Probation
- What life’s like in Juvenile Detention
I suspect that one of the reasons that authors are able to write several novels a year now, where the norm used to be only one per year, is the ease of research. How long would it have taken me to pull together all of the information that I gathered through Google if I had to get it all from the library, reference books, or personal letters/interviews? Some of the novels I have written have required close to a hundred research articles, and those are just the references I saved. I don’t bother to save the “quickie” answers to searches like those listed above while I am in the process of writing. The details that I need are just inserted into the text and I continue on.
Combine the time savings of Google with other writing tools – using Scrivener instead of writing longhand or with a manual typewriter like I used when I first started writing, enabling me to quickly move from outlining to writing, to editing, to compiling into manuscript format for reviewers/editors and then to ebooks or paperback in a few minutes/hours (depending on how proficient you are!) Processes that used to take months can now take just days. The ability of an author to produce one novel per year can easily jump to three, four, or more.
Images: Flickr CC
Pat David, Underwood No. 5 Keys