Whoah, we’re halfway there….

I just passed the 25,000 word mark for National Novel Writing Month, and am still progressing like a steam train! Woo woo! I’ve been trying to get at least two chapters a day written, and so far I’ve stayed on track. It’s the 10th of November, and I’m about halfway through Chapter 20. If I keep this up, I should have 60 chapters by the end of the month, and will have easily hit the 50,000 word mark.

Since I’m planning on releasing this novel, one chapter a week, that will give me plenty to work with. How exciting!

But in addition to reporting my progress so far, I wanted to point out a useful tool. I’m sure that many experienced writers have already used this, but for other amateurs, hobbyists and enthusiasts, this might be a fun trick to know about.

I decided to use actual locations in this part of the novel, and I’m having my protagonists visit relatives in Independence, Kansas. This is a location that’s practically in the middle of the country, and it’s a fairly small town. So it seems like it would be the perfect setting for this part of the novel.

However, I’ve never been to Independence. I’ve never even set foot in Kansas. For goodness sake, I’ve never been farther east than Yellowstone National Park. How in the world am I going to write about a location that I’ve never visited, let alone seen?

Welcome to the world of the Internet. With access to the Web, I can go pretty much anywhere I want. And with tools like Google Maps, I can use its 3D view to walk along its streets like I was actually there. I can see the individual houses, tell how far they are from restaurants and grocery stores, and even how many trees are along the streets. Using the information from Wikipedia, I can even give rough guesses about what the weather is going to be like at certain times of the year.

These are tools that authors didn’t have in the past. They would have to rely on their own memories and notes, as they visited the actual locations as part of their research into their novels. There is something to be said about visiting the actual locations, though. For example, I can’t tell what the traffic noise is like in a specific neighborhood, or how the streets smell when the wind blows from the direction of the bakery.

Or the sewage treatment plant. Maybe Smell-O-Vision isn’t such a good idea.

But programs like Google Earth are an invaluable tool to use. It’s important for authors to use these kinds of tools to bring in added realism to their stories. And sometimes it’s fun to look up these sorts of random facts, too. For instance, during the course of this novel, I had to look on Volkswagen’s Web site to make sure that the Golf comes in red.

It’s “Tornado Red,” to be precise. Huh. Didn’t know tornados came in red.

There’s a whole toolbox to be found on the Internet. Don’t forget to use it! And keep on writing!

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