The pros and cons of writing with internet access.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Inevitably, almost every time I sit down to write something, whether it’s for work or for recreation, I have internet access. For work, this is pretty much a necessity, since very much of what I work on for clients has to be researched. For my personal work, I could probably get away without having the internet except for the fact that it can be hard to find a place to work without internet unless you’re really, really good about making sure you go out to a non-internet cafe. When I’m working from home, that’s pretty much impossible.

But having the internet isn’t all bad. There are actually some really awesome benefits the internet gives us that writers of past generations didn’t have access to. There are, of course, also some things about writing with internet access that are more inhibiting than they are helpful.

Here are some of the biggest pros and cons to trying to get any work done when you have a solid internet connection.

Pro: Research is super-duper easy.
Do you need to know how to reset a dislocated shoulder for an intense after-the-fight scene? Or maybe you want to know what else people can use to make others lose consciousness other than chloroform. Perhaps you want to know what the inside of the senate building looks like, or which guns snipers used in World War II. I may or may not be speaking from experience here, but it can be extremely frustrating to run into a scene you need to research, only to find you don’t have internet access and you’ll have to wait til later to get it done.

Con: Facebook (and every other distraction) is literally just a click away.
However, with the internet, more than just research material is at the tips of your fingers: so is the vast world of social media, online news, and the blogosphere. If you aren’t careful, you can get sucked into some stupid debate about the sanctity of the Oxford comma on Facebook instead of actually working on your novel. You can get pulled into the Infinite Youtube Loop where you play video after video for hours before you realize how much time you’ve lost. Be careful, writers. The internet is a dangerous place.

Pro: You can get a group around the world to write together.
A friend of mine recently started a Facebook group for writers to get together virtually when they’re working. You basically get onto the group, let everyone know you’re writing, and revel in the fact that you aren’t writing alone (even if the other person does live four time zones away from you). There are also writing forums and websites where writers can build communities. National Novel Writing Month’s website is a perfect example of that. This kind of community is something we didn’t have quite as easily before the internet–you’d actually have to make “real world” friends who LIKED to write!

Con: Keeping conversations on track is borderline impossible.
Be careful, though. If you get a group of writers together in a chat room, you’re bound to end up with a lot of awesome, off the wall, and absolutely irrelevant conversations. What may have started out as a discussion on character development could easily turn into a fangirl session about your favorite characters. Soon, you’ll be doing more gossipping than writing and your book will grow, if you’re lucky, by a page or two. And I mean really lucky.

Pro: There are so many awesome resources available online.
Aside from research into the novel itself, there are also some great resources for writers available online. Thesauruses and dictionaries, for one, but also websites like Poets & Writers that give us information about what’s going on in the writing and publishing space. There are resources about writing query letters as well as information on agents and publishers we may want to access. Really, the sheer volume of information out there for writers is astounding, and without the internet, it would be a lot harder to get to.

Con: But it’s too easy to get caught up in those resources instead of working.
But again, this is another thing we have to keep an eye on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught myself reading up on writing contests for hours without actually writing anything. Or, of course, getting caught up in a slew of articles about agents I’d like to talk to. While this can be really useful, it can also just distract us from getting what we need to get done, well, done. It’s great to know what agents you want to talk to, but if you haven’t finished and revised or rewritten your book, it doesn’t matter yet. They’ll want a polished manuscript, so you’d better get to work!


Categories: Tips and Tricks, Writing

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