My Two Cents

One woman’s shortcuts to research and skill development

by Jan 10, 2012Craft, Writers1 comment

I don’t know about you, but I can spend hours fiddling around on the Internet, hunting for information about various topics or writing tips. Hours.

The first reason is because I follow the trail wherever it leads. When I needed details about powder magazines so I could describe one in my manuscript, three hours passed before I returned to the writing. I found a picture and short description fairly early on in the process, but then read a few paragraphs that led me to a provincial government’s rules and regulations for construction of powder magazines, which then made me wonder about whether my character needed a license for his explosives vault, which made me look for licensing regulations. Three hours later I remembered my character was a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants type, for whom the idea of a license would be ludicrous.

Another reason is that I am not a techie. I suspect I could reduce my online research time if I were more astute about search engines, search terms and so on. (What I know about Boolean searches is this: the word “Boolean” makes me smile. I expect the results to jump off the screen at me, shouting…)

So I celebrate when I find shortcuts to the information I need.

Shortcuts for writing tips

For a shortcut here, identify people whose posts about writing or the industry you find helpful, then subscribe to their blogs and have the content delivered right to your computer. Just like online shopping! Follow those people on Twitter or Facebook so that you can see what they are sharing, both their own posts and links they post to other helpful information.

I recommend following Elizabeth S. Craig on Twitter (@elizabethscraig). She tweets links to some very helpful blog posts that are all about writing. If you subscribe to Elizabeth’s blog (Mystery Writing is Murder) you will receive a weekly email that gives you links to all the posts she tweeted that week. Save that email!

I have also subscribed to a few favourite writing blogs (such as Grammar Party, Writers in the Storm and Mystery Writing is Murder).

Finally bookmark your favourite sites so that you can access them easily.

Shortcuts for research

Again, follow or subscribe to blogs that you find provide you with information you need for your project. For example, because I write mysteries, I follow The Writer’s Forensics Blog and Forensics4Fiction and have them bookmarked. I have also bookmarked sites dealing with mining, explosives, Percherons, preparing horses for winter – all containing information that helped me with my manuscript.

I have also used Alltop, which is an aggregator of sorts. On Alltop you will find links to blogs that cover a myriad of topics. The main topics include News, Sports, Tech, Work, Culture, Interests, Geos (as in places) and Health. Under each of those topics you will find subtopics that deal with most things you might want to learn about.

The breadth of the subtopics is astounding, and some of them are very intriguing. For example under the main topic “Interests” I found subtopics for beer, frugality, how stuff works, and Washington DC Street Food. The main topic “Culture” has subtopics for sci-fi and fantasy novels, HipHop, and Street Food. What is it about the fascination with street food?

I mentioned that my shortcuts were intended to help me shorten my time fiddling around on the Internet. Hmmm. That was before I discovered Washington DC Street Food on Alltop. Now I know I’m going to spend a few hours poking around on that subtopic, reading a few blogs about street food. I may have just shot myself in the foot.

Any shortcuts you’d like to share?

1 Comment

  1. Kaye Linden

    Writers lose track of time. Writing consumes time and time is something none of us have. k.
    ps. define street food…

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