I’ve been mapping a scene all night. So far, I have:
- Found the exact bench at Founder’s Park in Alexandria, VA that my story people meet at.
- Selected my main character’s backpack.
- Read over several different versions of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
- Purchased a copy thereof that includes the cuneiform characters, plus several Greek and Roman epics and texts, delivered instantly, for a dollar.
- Received a ton of papers on code switching and the effects of bilingualism on the brain from a person who did research on it for a university class.
- Confirmed pigeons won’t come out to eat at night even if you shake a bread bag really loudly (and yes, I do actually know bread is bad for birds, thank you so much for helpfully pointing that out).
- Found a video that not only would have been highly entertaining to my main character and her best friend/fellow profiler, but has a few seconds in which the singer looks almost exactly like her.
- Been tipped to free genealogy software that will help me map characters’ families (although it doesn’t look like the designers ever imagined non-binary people).
- Found a bunch of new music to write to.
- And done probably a dozen other things I’ve forgotten completely about, but would have taken me hours of research in the past, if they’d got done at all.
For the next scene, I’ll be looking at the interior of a Learjet, among other things. All without leaving the house, making a phone call, asking someone to send a brochure, or anything similar.
I’d never be able to write about science without the Internet, definitely, but writing good fiction was also much less possible without it. I look back over stuff I wrote when I didn’t have internet access, and it’s so… thin. And wrong. So many mistakes. So many places where my imagination was crippled due to lack of information. So many nights where I’d gone through all of my music and was getting tired of listening to all the same stuff again, let’s not forget those dark days.
I can now open the computer at any time of night and have access to the entire world. No matter what ridiculous or esoteric tidbit I need to know, I can generally find it with a quick Google search or a question thrown out on Facebook. I’ve got a cadre of encouragers for those moments when I just want to rip my hair out. I’ve got people who can help me with names, people who can help me with places, people who can help me with concepts, and who can do all of this so unobtrusively that it doesn’t break the narrative flow. This is the kind of thing I used to weep for wanting back in the day. (And yes, I have been working on this series for that long. It required a lot of worldbuilding. But it probably wouldn’t have taken me thirty years if I’d had the internet back when I was first starting out.)
It’s very nearly a miracle.
I mean, I imagine writers of yore had about the same reaction when the telephone and the research librarian were created, screaming with joy over the fact that their job just became exponentially easier.
I don’t need coworkers to find Wise Readers now. When this book is ready for eyeballs, I can just reach out to you, here, and send you electronic copies rather than killing a mid-sized forest. When you’re all done ripping and tearing and helping me rebuild it into something better, stronger, faster, then I can find an agent, maybe. Or maybe I’ll say fuck it, fuck the agent and publisher and the endless round of trying to get someone to take what readers have already said they want. I can hire an editor and cover artist and have them whip it into exquisite shape, then publish it in an evening, right here from my bed/office (I haven’t got a chair in my room, alas, although I’m going to be looking for a comfy folding one soon). I can have a published book to you buy morning, for a fraction of the price you’d pay for a traditionally-published tome.
Technology changes everything.
So, should you come to me for advice on writing, part of it is now this: make sure you have a reliable internet connection. You’ll need a good imagination, some talent with words, and the willingness to seek the most random shit imaginable. Check the details, because you never know what they’re going to spark. You never know when a single accurate detail will change everything, when it will solve a thorny plot problem or give you an idea that will make the characters and world you’re creating so real and compelling to your readers that they must read on. You never know what you’ll need. But as long as you’ve got the internet, you’ll probably be able to find it exactly when you need it.