There are a few great things about being able to connect online, not the least of which is the vast amount of information in one easy click. Lately, I’ve been dividing my writing time between working on the WIP and researching for future submissions. That can take you to a lot of different places online, but for me, most sources are only the beginning. It’s like back when you had to write research papers and at the end you’d list your bibliography. Well, taking any one webpage at gospel would be like listening to the person who wrote the term paper over researching their sources... the sources are more accurate and the paper writer, if they’re doing their job, used that information as a springboard toward their own summations.
I check the stats on my blog every few days, maybe once a week. I like to see who’s checking my posts and where they’re coming from every once in a while. There are spurts here and there of various searches, but the ones that pop up at a pretty regular clip are my book club blogs on The Mists of Avalon. Other book reviews get regular hits, too, but the book club blogs on Mists get long and lengthy visits – always from University or College computers. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are some college students out there using my blog as a reference. Those discussions were pretty detailed. There were a number of them and the comment section in each was full of thoughtful insight by all of the participants. It’s possible that they’re reading them to get ideas for different aspects of the book to write about – I hope they’re not plagiarizing whole hog... in fact, I thought about pulling the posts just in case. I’m guessing they’re smart enough to know that their instructors have access to the same internet and might’ve stumbled across the same blog at some point.
But, thinking about it this way, how do those college students know that I even have any concept of what I’m talking about?
Over the course of dealing with people online, you get to know some whose opinions and thoughts you trust. They usually have some credentials to lead you to that opinion, or you’ve followed them for long enough that their perspective holds weight. I follow a number of blogs where I don’t even know the real name of the author. But I trust them because their knowledge has panned out and resonated – it can also be checked.
Some of the resources I like to use when digging into agent research or even formatting / grammar issues are the writer boards. There are a few good ones; I’m not going to point them out here because most of you already know about them. They can be a font of great information, if you’re careful.
I’ve had people correct the formatting on my ms before. Either format would have been correct, depending on who you were querying (I’d seen some editors who preferred one while some preferred the other – that’s a case where you double check who you’re querying first, and if there’s no indication, go with the ancient standard... mine was the ancient standard). I indicated as much in my response and they proved their assertion by pointing me to a popular and well-respected writing board... okay, the board might be well respected but the quote was by some writer who participates on the board who didn’t have any identifying characteristics and not very many posts to follow... there was no reason for me to take his/her word on it – I didn’t even know who the writer was... Just because the board is reputable doesn’t mean all of the active members know what they’re talking about.
A nifty little benefit to those in query hell is the ability to check the agents’ response time at various places. But then, too, that can be a distraction more than anything. If a lot of other writers post about a quick response time from an agent, but you’re not getting a response, that can make you do something stupid – like submit two days later instead of waiting.
While I check these things regularly when I’m researching, I’ve learned to take them with a grain of salt. Some of the posters are more expert than others – some are just kind of catty.
How about you guys? What’s your litmus test for researching online? What’s the best advantage for you? What’s the biggest peeve?