Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Rick's Helpful Hints

Blechta here.

Since I'm in the middle of trying to complete a novel before leaving for Paris to do location scouting for it (more on this ass-backwards way of working later), I'm sort of pressed for time and more than just a little brain dead.

However, since I'm madly at work, I thought I'd share three of the terrific online tools I've found that help move my writing along. They are really good resources, some of which you may know about already, and they certainly will save you a ton of time. I would need to spend countless hours in libraries without them.

First off, there's this site: http://www.onelook.com/
This site provides you instant access to many different dictionaries at once. Want to quickly look up a word and check its usage and entomology in one place? This is it!

For foreign languages: http://www.word2word.com/dictionary.html
Admittedly the dictionaries listed here aren't all THAT great, but if you want to look up a word in Ayapathu, Galician or Javanese, you'll find them here -- and more! Fun to just poke around in if you're wasting time.

Last up is Google Maps: http://maps.google.com/maps
You probably already know about this, but did you know you can look up a lot more than addresses? Use the satellite and terrain features when you just want to check out whether something will work for a scene. Just what is the topography (as opposed to the typography) of Paris? I already know without having to go there!* You can also use the map to find luxury hotels for your character to stay in, where they can catch the Metro. The uses for really quick research forays are really limitless.**

There are more tools I can recommend (and I'm sure you can, too), but like I said, I'm a bit pressed for time. I'd like to say, "See you in the research room of the library," but I know I want find you there after this.

* Okay, so you're probably wondering why I'm going to Paris to do research AFTER I've finished a novel. Here's the drift: yes, I could go first and then write the book, but I've tried that before and there's always a fly in the ointment eventually: what if you didn't really look at that cute little restaurant in ye olde district of town, and then you decide it's the PERFECT place for that second murder you didn't realize would be taking place just before the end of your novel? You have to pack up and head off to that location again, that's what. Now if it's in the next county, big deal, but what if it's on another continent? (Charles' travels come to mind here.) Research can suddenly become hideously expensive when second and third trips get involved.

My way out? Write the novel, go to the city, check out the locations you've already scouted on Google Maps or by talking to people who've been there, then on your foray, you'll know exactly what you need if your best beforehand guesses don't pan out. Trust me, it works.

** Don't always trust the Google Maps has things in the right places. You have to go there or you won't know the post office, contrary to what Google told you, is at the other end of town.


Vicki Delany said...

The life of a writer is tough.

Rick Blechta said...

It is when the bills for these little jaunts start flooding in!

Sean Chercover said...

OneLook is pretty cool. Thanks for the tip, Rick. And have a great trip!

Rick Blechta said...

Thanks, Sean.