Writing While Browsing
by: Sherrie Cronin
I have no idea how one wrote novels before the internet. Short stories don’t necessarily have a lot of facts in them, at least mine never did, so they didn’t require much in the way of research. By the time I began to try my hand with full length books, I had the luxury of countless facts at my fingertips. This is good because I can’t get an hour into my writing without needing to know how much an airplane weighs or what day of the week February 14 was in 2012 or how many people live in Belize or what is a common last name that will work for a minor character that needs to blend in well and yet won’t remind the reader of anyone famous.
The result is that I write with a half dozen or so tabs of my favorite search engine open, and I bookmark and save obscure links like a madwoman. It takes a certain amount of self discipline to keep moving and not get lost in the information, and I’m generally pretty good about not lingering. However, like the time I found myself on a website for survivors of particularly brutal alternative schools for teens, I have learned that when something calls to me so much that I just can’t get myself to move on, then I need to listen to my instincts. I am likely to end up with a subplot that is a surprise to me, and yet which I will be really glad that I included.
One pitfall of internet research is that everyone can be a self proclaimed expert, whether they know what they are talking about or not. I use Wikipedia and I love it, but if it is important that I get the information exactly right, I generally go ahead and take the time to check the original sources. I completely avoid sites where people write in questions and anyone can answer. I have a strong science background and have found some amazingly wrong information voted “best answer”.
The other tab or two that I keep open as I write is a map of wherever my action is occurring. I like satellite images and the feeling of being there, even if I don’t need specific information at that moment. It helps to me keep my head in the story. In y1 I kept downtown Chicago and the Pacific Ocean open as I wrote. In z2 I followed highways through Mexico and got to spend a good deal of time in Belize. Sometimes I’d take a break from my writing and just go look around. I’d check out the shore and the small atolls around the various coral reefs, imaging that I was snorkeling out there with my characters. It wasn’t exactly a day at the beach for me, but it did make writing z2 even more fun.
Genre - Speculative Fiction
Rating – PG
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