If you’re guilty of losing time on the Internet surfing for research and information, one great tool for writers is Google Alerts. Instead of you going out to find the information, Google surfs the net, mines the web for any info particular to your alert, and bundles it in an email that lands in your mailbox. You determine whether you want the alerts daily, weekly, monthly or whatever. The alert can be as broad as monitoring “dinosaurs” or as narrow and specific as your name. (Setting up an alert to monitor your name is something I think every writer should do; you’d be amazed at what you discover.)
You can create up to 1,000 Google Alerts. That should satisfy even the most versatile and research-needy of writers. Check the Google Alert FAQ page to learn the hard facts. Right now I maintain an alert on my name. I also have one that pertains to a subject for a future book and one that is directly related to one of my current characters. Both alerts float in once a week. Now Google doesn’t know exactly what you are looking for but just having something that goes out and searches the web for every mention of that particular word or combination of words greatly reduces the time you spend foraging. The magic inherent in surfing isn’t eclipsed, either. Serendipity snaps into focus the moment you click on a link that is even remotely interesting.
Google Alerts has an easy manager. This little program is so easy to set up and use that anyone will benefit from its use. Mine are sent directly to my gmail account. (You will need to open a Google account but you don’t have to use Gmail.) Filters funnel the alerts so they are easily retrievable. They also show up in my Outlook in a folder titled ALERTS. There they sit, silently awaiting my attention on my timetable.
When you get an alert, it may contain one, two, three, even seven, eight or ten websites. They probably won’t all directly relate to your needs but it only takes seconds to click, check and delete. Save the ones that may matter in the email. When I find one that obviously has something I’m going to want or need later–you guessed it–I Furl it.