I have a Google puppy that fetches news articles, blogs and press releases several times a day and drops them into my mail box. These aren’t your random posts, but targeted to what I need for my WIP. Google Alerts are quick and easy to set up, and if the information it brings doesn’t work out, I can tweak it until I’m getting quality and insightful morsels.
I originally set up an alert for “FBI art theft”: worked great, although there is a video game that keeps popping up. Then I set up “Interpol art theft”. Apparently there’s a band by that name currently touring, but not quite what I was looking for. Since 90% of the fetches were band related with no criminal intent, I dropped the search.
I discovered that by automating the research and having it done on a rolling basis, I was getting more news clips and updates on old theft cases than if I had done this at random times on my own. The criminal methods and outcomes of these cases are evolving, and to keep my work fresh, I want to be in the know about what’s going on in the art world, what’s been stolen and who is getting arrested. This timely information helped me create a realistic world for my main character and fueled creative ideas.
Google Alerts reminds me of the old clip service bureaus. Those were the people who scoured newspapers and magazines for their clients and made a “clip book” of their public image. Google Alerts take much less time and you’re never in danger of paper cuts.
20 Years ago, we would have scanned microfiche to read up on news events or locate historical documents. We’d drive to the county seat courthouse to look up birth records and find old maps and photos to help fuel our fiction. Be thankful for the 21st century.
To try it out yourself go to www.google.com and click More at the top, then click Even More at the bottom of the drop-down and Alerts will appear in a list of Google-ish options.
If you’d like to help name my puppy, DM me at @jpg_writer.