If you’re anything like me, you may have found yourself writing deep into a scene, going strong, when suddenly you stop, set your pen down, and think, I have no idea what I’m talking about!
That’s when you reach for the laptop. It’s right there on your desk, plugged in, online, waiting for you to tickle it’s keys. It opens a window to the world and it’s vast information. Even today I’m amazed at what one can learn online. When is earth capitalized? – it’s on there. Do commas go before or after quotes? – on there. What’s the proper use of hyphens – it’s there too. And that’s just grammar. What about online dictionaries and thesauruses (or, for that matter, how to spell thesauruses – oh yeah, it’s there, I looked it up)? Wikipedia? Google Maps??
I remember the time before internet very well. Back then, if I knew I was going to be writing a story or scene that presented tricky challenges about technology, or geography, or some other specialized area of knowledge, I would pack up my writing tools (pens, notepad, paperback dictionary and thesaurus) and head off for a day of writing at the local library. Usually, ahead of time, I would try to anticipate what types of reference material I would be needing and get that gathered together first. But inevitably, due to the mysterious process of the story writing itself, other questions would crop up I hadn’t anticipated, and off I’d go down the lonely carpeted corridors between bookshelves, searching out the data my story demanded. *Sigh*….the good old days.
But I would never trade my internet connection for a truckload of backpacks, dictionaries and pens, or even for the best library in the world (be cool – I’m not dissing libraries). As far as I’m concerned, my writing has become much better due to the information that’s become readily available through the internet, and I’m also a less lazy writer than before. Yeah, that’s right! I said less lazy. Let’s not get crazy here.
Think about it – say you were working on a scene, at night, back in the days before internet. You get to a point that demands accuracy about whatever-it-might-be, something like “what year was the Constitution ratified?” I mean, you have to know that in order to continue, because based on that info, other things will be affected. It’s a road block that you can’t clear without knowing the facts first. What are you going to do? The library is closed. Will you stop writing and wait until you can go research the facts tomorrow, or will you do what I would’ve done (did do) – just change the story so that you can skip the need for further research altogether?
Okay – I have to admit, that’s the beauty of writing fiction – the option of doing that. Let’s all give props to the non-fiction authors. But really, good fiction demands good research also, despite some evidence to the contrary – we all know the ones who seem to be able to make up any-damn-thing, no matter how ridiculous, implausible, or unsubstantiated, and they still make bank. But I digress.
I’m talking about us mere mortals: me, and I assume you if you’re reading this humble blog. I know that internet access has made my writing better, more accurate not only in grammatical ways, but more accurate in conveying setting, moving plot forward, not to mention creating believability by understanding concepts better. Most valuable, above all, is that because it’s right there, at your fingertips, it need not even break the flow of your writing. I’ve accessed crucial data and got right back to writing before in under 30 seconds. And that, my friends, is the power of the internet.