Thursday, June 2, 2011

how to RUG.

You have doubtless heard of RUE—Resist the Urge to Explain.

From INTERN's personal lexicon of literary terminology, a lesser known rule:

RUG: Resist the Urge to Google.

RUG refers to the temptation, in this age of wifi-enabled coffeeshops and writing rooms, to interrupt writing every fifteen seconds to google a piece of crucial "research" for one's novel instead of figuring it out for oneself by thinking about it.

In the past few days, INTERN is guilty of googling the following:

"how to survive fall from fourth-story window"
"how to climb building"
"parkour how to climb building"
"what rhymes with "affordable"
"Pocky ingredients"
"how to drywall"
"schedule for #17 nightbus"
"how to true spokes"
"causes of accidental death in America"
"Fender guitars"
"causes of homelessness"
"homelessness statistics"
"Pocky flavors"

etc. etc. etc.

Only one of these searches resulted in information INTERN actually used. INTERN should have been more RUGged in her determination to stay focused.

INTERN wants to know: what stupid, pointless, barely-relevant things have you Googled recently in the name of novel research? Do you use "research" as an excuse to break the flow of your writing? Would you like to join INTERN in a sacred oath to stop Googling stupid #^$% when you're supposed to be writing? Yes?


  1. Heh. I once spent about two hours researching the origins of opera just to figure out a little bit of world-building that turned into about a paragraph, maybe a paragraph and a half, in a WIP.


  2. lol, I once had to research what burning flesh smells like. I won't be doing that again...

    Otherwise, yes, I would like to take an oath with you :) I DO research a lot while I write, but it always leads to website hopping to things that have absolutely no significance to what I'm writing. Procrastination at its finest.

  3. Spent an hour yesterday googling US presidents and wondering how they would have changed if there were no Civil War.

    Too bad I don't actually have the time to work on that project right now. :(

  4. I've Googled a lot about trees. This may not be useless, though. I'd like my forest to be realistic.

  5. I don't know how i ended up at this point but I spent quite a long time a few days ago reading about the invention of underpants.

  6. I use the street view feature in Google quite a bit since my novel takes place in London, and sadly I am not there.

  7. So many chemical equations...I'm having a very passionate affair with Wikipedia.

  8. I Google a lot for police procedure. Might not be useless, though, since my WIP is a crime thriller.

    I might have found a shortcut. Going to try to attend my first conference this summer. There are several classes given by law enforcement officials. Even some FBI thrown in. Thinking I can just "gibberish" through the sections that need facts and get a lot of this info at the conference.

    As for the sacred oath? All for it, unless it involves sacrificing chickens or wearing red latex.

  9. I'm so guilty of this. Wikipedia is my worst enemy. I start with one article, then I click the links, and suddenly I'm reading about the Duke of Gloucester. Does this have any bearing on my novel whatsoever? No. Does it pertain to anything in my day to day life? Again, no. Yet somehow I've ended up reading that article twice! Why? I don't know.

  10. I spent an entire sunny day a few weekends ago trying to find the Status of Forces Agreement (they could call that a SOFA -- I could google that and see, I guess) between the United States and Germany that was in effect in the 1960s so I could make sure I was right about something that no one cares about because, by the time my novel is sold, everyone who might have known whether I was right will be DEAD. They will all be dead because while I'm doodling around on google, they'll all die of old age, which most of them are already well in to. Anyway, I do have a solution. I use this thing called freedom, which doesn't let you get online for as much time as you tell it to lock you out. And when I have the urge to look something up, I write it down and save it all up for one huge time-wasting google spree. I'd take any oath that would get me to finish my revisions by the end of this century.

  11. I'm all for the oath. The Google searches for my most recent novel probably got me flagged as a terrorist anyway:

    *Russian embassy in San Francisco
    *floorplan for Russian embassy in London
    *how to break into an embassy
    *Putin's office in Kremlin
    *guns carried by NKVD

  12. Yep. I'll take that oath. I googled goat manure, the history of the Gerber company and many recipes as research for my novel.

  13. It goes like this:

    I'm writing away and decide that it would be nice to go to a dive bar for some atmosphere and people watching except I can't go because the scooter needs either rings or a new fuel pump, so I Google for diagnostic advice and then shop for parts and then realize that I have no ambition to fix the scooter because Google tells me the surf will be good tomorrow, and if I only lived on a desert island I wouldn't be bothered by tourists wanting to rent umbrellas and chairs while I'm busy writing away on the beach and would have ample time for surfing, so I Google a few islands and then for fun take a peek at the Canadian Archipelago (which has no surf and is thus useless to me) which reminds me to read Dan Simmon's "The Terror" again because it is a fine work, so I bike over to the library and then the store for snacks (starvation novels require ample snacks), and I'm just at the part where they abandon Erebus and Terror (who the hell would name ships Erebus and Terror and then sail them into the unknown Arctic) and discover I've gained five pounds from the snacks and will probably sink my surfboard next time I'm out and perhaps the scooter, if repaired, will break under the strain, but now I'm caught up in the misery of the Franklin Expedition and must read the full Wikipedia entry, which reminds me that some French live-aboard sailing buddies are due back near Florida this fall and I could sign on for a three month voyage in the Caribbean over the winter, but I need to brush up on conversational French immediately, so Google takes me to the evening newscasts on TF1 and by the time I'm crushed by the realization that I understand just one word in ten let alone the critical nautical terms... I'm no longer in the mood to write tonight after just four sentences.

    But each one is the truest sentence I know.

  14. I've done this so many times that I can't even think of any particularly good examples. My friend though, once spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out the official name for the little harmonica holder people put around their necks (think Bob Dylan). Turns out it's called a "harmonica holder." D'oh.

  15. Been there done that, yesterday is was music publishers, the day before gypsies, today ahlet's see no googlejust blog procrastination.

  16. I hope the information you actually used was the list of Pocky flavors. Almond Crush Pocky, nomnomnom.

    While I'm writing, I keep a document called "distractions" in which I list all the things I want to Google. I don't actually allow myself to look them up until I'm finished writing (at which point the urge has usually passed).

    If I can't continue writing without the answer to a question, I leave myself a note in brackets, ex. [description of clock machinery here].

    Latest distractions: geis, crescent-shaped horns, hair metal, electric teakettle.

    The distractions themselves might make a good writing prompt...

  17. There's Pocky in America??? :O

    Yeah, I had to Google stores in Puerto Rican malls the other day. In Spanish of course :)

  18. dark chocolate pocky = wonderfulness.

    mid-1800s Victorian scientists and how early Victorians generated electricity took up a good day or two (and was crucial to my WIP). still, when i know i need to get serious about writing, i take my older mac laptop, the one with the weak wifi card, and go to a far corner of the house to write, knowing the internets are unreachable.

    -- Tom

  19. I hope this doesn't make me sound as old as petrified batshit, but I write longhand. And Google is the reason why. I write longhand in the morning, in the afternoon I type it in and Google what needs googleing. Otherwise, I would never get anything done.

  20. History of the railroad in America. For a short story I'm thinking of writing, set in the world of the novel I'm (supposed to be) finishing.

  21. I use Google images to find photos that could be my characters when I'm having a hard time hearing what they're saying or seeing how they'd move. You can spend a looooong time trying to find a photo of a teen boy you don't immediately want to smack.