My love of Google is definitely something worthy of being mocked. But I don't care--it has it's uses, and it's really helped me over the years. I'm tired of hearing professors and writing critics online telling people the blanket advice of "get away from Google and into the story."
They're right. To a point. Yes, you need original ideas and to be frank those will probably come more easily if you're not reading another list of "7 ways to get a good idea for a novel" because if you're googling that, it's probably not time to write one.
But once you have an idea--once you begin to shape the story, and then once you begin to whittle it down to something stronger and more impacting, Google can become your best friend. Here's how I use my buddy Google, and I think you should give it a chance, too.
Researching How Things Really Work
If you're writing about something you don't know well, you're eventually going to want to speak directly, too (and probably do some work with) an expert. But experts aren't always on hand, so while you sculpt the outline of your story, consult with Google to get real information from real people.
For example, if you're writing a story about a woman in her 40s that is going to pick up bee keeping as a hobby, Google "the basics of beekeeping" and read posts by people wanting to start the hobby. How are they feeling? Why are the writing it? What mistakes are they making, and what questions are they asking? You can fact check with an expert later, but you need this info to shape a quality character who feels like they're really experiencing something.
Don't just assume beekeeping works the way you once imagined it--things are rarely that simple.
Double Check That Name (or, that historical event)
We learn so many things in our lives, but many of them are half truths (or, half lies) that really don't convey anything like we thought they might.
When you're writing a character who suddenly pulls out some facts about Richard Nixon that you remember learning in the 5th grade, and those facts are supposed to be the basis for parts of the scene, make sure you double check if they're true or not. It's okay if they're not true if they're meant to be untrue, but you don't want to let your character voice untrue things as truth without explanation. It will leave your readers doubting authenticity.
Again, fact checkers might see this later if you ever get published. But when these facts are becoming the basis of a character's experiences or personalities, it's better to google it quickly to get an idea of if you're remembering the full truth, or just part of it.
Grammar Guides are Your Friend (and They're Online!)
You don't need to have perfect grammar to be a writer. Seriously. You can make mistakes (intentionally or unintentionally) that can all be resolved later in an editing stage.
But if you're anything like me, knowing that something about the grammar of your sentence is off, or not being sure what the plural version of that word you just have to use is will bother you, so just google it! Better to waste one minute finding out now than to waste an hour racking your brain for the grammar you swear you learned in middle school. Google is your friend.
Setting is King
Writing setting isn't always easy, especially when you're placing a story somewhere that you've only visited once or only ever seen via television shows set in that era.
The internet isn't going to be a 100% accurate source for this, but give Google a chance. Go to Google Images. Search "1960s American living room." Find a picture you like. Click it. Click "Visit Page" and see why that image showed up in the search results. You might find out it actually isn't 60s at all (it's important to check, don't just rely on the image search to filter for you!). Or, you might find a ton of info about the items in the room and find everything you need in one go. Like I just did, except the image I liked turned out to be for the 1950s, so I guess I was writing the wrong era!
This technique can be really, really helpful for setting a scene. Even if you need to do more research later, I always find it easier to write in a scene when I know where I am.
This is part 1 of what I should call my "why I love Google" series, but I do plan to add more cards, so follow this collection (it's actually titled Writing with Google) if you'd be interested in learning more ways to use Google's power to help your writing improve. I promise it works!
Follow it here!