Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Writing with Google Docs

I cannot tell you how many times I've lost work because of computer malfunctions. It feels like I finally got to the fires of Mordor, only to drop the ring down a crevice with no hope of ever getting it back. It's just gone, and all that beautiful writing I created is gone forever. I can try to replicate it, but really, we all know that when you hit it, you hit it, and recreating a moment of flow and perfect prose is nearly impossible. Two chapters in Intio were rewritten because of some sort of saving error, and I can't tell you--cannot express!--the fury that boiled within my desolate, black writer's heart. I had to leave the house and just pace the apartment complex for a good hour before I could return to my husband's sympathetic assurances. And those two chapters? Not as good as they were. CONFLABBIT!

Okay, so what's the solution here? Back up, right? Because every time you write something genius (and let's face it, that's pretty much every five minutes right?) you should "save as" to your thumb drive (which I lose), or email it to yourself, or upload it somewhere safe. To which I say:

So my real solution is actually not to write on my hard drive at all. Nope, I've discovered Google Docs, and I'm in love.

This is kind of post one of two about writing with a co-author, because I really discovered the miracle of Google Docs half-way through writing Inito and when I joined my mother and co-author in writing a paranormal YA novel. See, the amazing thing about Google Docs is that you can let other people in there with you. Usually writers don't need this function, so I'll go over three big advantages that might apply to you: Sharing, Editing, Saving.

First, sharing. If you ever plan to write a book with someone else (more on that later!) I highly recommend doing it with Google Docs! It's absurdly easy to share your document with someone else, and once you have done that, the two of you can write in there at the same time. Now, admittedly, I got a bit of a nervous tick writing while my mom was in there with me...watching...But seriously, it's not a big deal. I got over it, and when there were scenes where our characters overlapped and we weren't sure how to write the other person's character just write, we could do it together. And we live 2000 miles apart. It has a chat function so you can talk while you write, and leaving comments is a great way to suggest changes:


(Speaking of being okay with people seeing your unedited work, there you go! Chapter two of our paranormal book!)

The second reason Google Docs could save your couch-warmed, writer's toosh is because it makes it very easy to edit the piece. The first time I had my husband's Nana edit my work (laugh if you will, but Mrs. W took writing classes with and learned from Madeline L'engle, and her writing is flawless), we emailed copies back and forth. I ended up with ten or more copies of Lunula floating around my hard drive, and it's a miracle I got the correctly edited one to the publisher. This time around we tried Google Docs, and it was so nice! She would go through and make comments about what I needed to change, and I could come to them at my leisure. We could go back over an edit more than once, too. For example, if she made a comment that I used "you're" in the dialogue when maybe I should use "you are," I could either edit it per her suggestion, OR I could comment back and she would get a notification that I did that. And we could talk about that little edit without being tedious. Cool, right?

And finally, saving. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, saving is a pain in the elbow. With Google Docs, it doesn't matter if your computer breaks. Unless the internet breaks, your work is going to be safe. And it autosaves every couple of seconds. You can manually save anytime you want, but just in case you don't, and the power goes out mid-sentence, guess who already saved it for you? Good 'ol Google Docs! If you need to work on your piece offline, you can always dowload it, but I usually just write and then copy and paste. If you want to be really safe, you could download the work after certain milestones to make sure its on your hard drive and online.

Downsides? Well Google Docs isn't as fancy as Word, that's for sure. I wouldn't create any presentations for your CEO on it. But as a writing tool? If you ask me, it's perfect.

So how about it? Have you used Google Docs? Good or bad experiences?


  1. Doesn't Carbonite do the same thing? Everything I save or create is immediately saved to Carbonite.

    1. Hm, I've never tried Carbonite! I will check it out, though. Thanks for the tip!

  2. I love Google Docs! I use Evernote too, it's excellent with its web clipper for research, and there are lots of plugins that extend its capabilities.

    1. Evernote, another one I will need to take a look at! Thanks for sharing!