In the finished novel, this journey will take up four sentences. My virtual mapping of the route will have almost no discernible impact on the prose that I’ve already sketched out – as adjectives go, “nondescript” doesn’t paint much of a picture – and, once again, what I justify as research might just as easily be dismissed as the writer’s tendency to arse around. It’s certainly less costly and time-consuming than visiting Bologna, but it still feels a little like cheating. What if I’ve missed something? Isn’t being there part of the job?
Over at the Guardian, British novelist David Nicholls shares his experience of using Google to research places for his novels compared to visiting them in person.