Why I write in Google Docs

Writers all have their different habits and preferences for bringing words into existence. There are an endless number of writing programs, both free and paid, some just for processing words, or other more complex ones for organizing and story-boarding. Some writers even use pen and paper and keep physical piles of paper laying around! Personally, I choose to write everything in Google Docs, and here are my reasons why:

Accessibility: I can work on my project from any device with connection to the internet. Even if I don’t currently have a connection, I can open the file offline and work on it, and as soon as I connect it will be updated in the cloud. This removes so many excuses not to write. Even if all my electronic equipment went up in flames, I could still go to the library and open my document, and keep working. Which brings me to….

Peace of Mind: Laptop stolen? My story is safe. Critical error and hard drive erased? My story is safe. Unless Google goes belly up and shuts down all their servers, my story is always safe. Even the old horror story of a power outage or computer crash when I haven’t pressed ‘save’ in a while is no longer a worry, because it always is auto-saved to the cloud.

Sharing and Collaboration: Stories need to be reviewed, and it’s very easy to send a link to a Google Docs file, and allow comments, or even allow editing by anyone with the link, or give permission to specific people. Sure, I can always put a word doc in an email and send it to a bunch of people, but this leads to so many different versions to go over. With Docs, I can have all the comments from all the readers all on the same file, with no effort required by anyone. Just click the link, read, and comment.

Version History: Did you know Google Docs had this? I didn’t until recently. This adds even more to the peace of mind section, as well as simplicity. I can make major changes to a story without worrying about saving another version, because Google does that for me. All I have to do is go to file > version history > see version history, and I can look at earlier versions  by date. Drink a bit too much and make some sweeping changes that don’t look so good in the morning? Just load up an earlier version. Thanks Google!

Download as: Yes, it’s true that Google Docs doesn’t have quite the formatting capabilities as Word, but after you’re done writing and want to do some formatting of the final version, just download it as a word doc! You can also download as .odt, .rtf, .pdf, .txt, .htm. and even .epub, to upload it right to your e-reader!

Free!: And all this convenience is completely free. Just get a google account, and you’ll have access to all these features as well as 5gb of free storage space, which, when we’re dealing with text documents might as well be unlimited. Give it a try! You’ll thank me later 🙂

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Transitions? Forget about them

The obsession with transition negates a basic truth about writing, a magical truth. You can get anywhere from anywhere, always and almost instantly. – Verlyn Klinkenborg

We’ve all been there: cold moon, dark sky, watching our minds disappear as we try to figure out how to get our character from point A to B. She’s just found the clue hidden in her safety deposit box in Seattle, and now she has to fly to Cairo to search a secret tomb.

Shoot, that’s far, how do we get her there? we think. Let’s see, she has to buy a ticket, she has to pack, she has to get to the airport on time, she has to find her seat, she has to get through the terrible in-flight meal, she has to fall asleep, she had to get off the plane, she has to get through customs–NO, STOP.

You are a writer. You can do anything. So just go to where the next thing of importance happens, without all the fuss of getting there. I promise you, the reader won’t mind.

So how do we get her across the world in the span of a sentence? Try: “24 hours later, jet-lagged and sweating, Jane stepped off the plane into the dry heat of the Cairo streets.” Or, if you want to get even more to the point: “One terribly long flight, three taxi rides, and two hours of wandering unfamiliar streets later, Jane approached the home of her secret contact, and knocked tentatively on the door…” And there, done, now you can move on with your story, minus all the boring stressful aspects of travel.

If only we could move about so easily in real life!

The same goes for movement in time, or between character viewpoints–just go to where you want to be–the reader will keep up just fine.

Find a writing enemy

Competition always makes me more productive. I’ve written my best stories when they were for contests among friends. I knew if I didn’t turn in something good, I wouldn’t live it down, so I’d meet the deadline no matter what.

By writing enemy I mean someone you want to be better than, someone you want to defeat. Someone on your skill level that you can struggle against in a friendly way. Who can write more words in an hour/day/week? Who can get a story into x magazine first? Who can write the best story as judged by some other group of friends?

I find when I’m writing for other people, and not just myself (as is so often the case with unknown writers) that I’m much more productive. And if you’re not able to find anyone to beg you for more writing because they want to read it, I’m sure you can find another writer to compete against!

Try it, it will improve your productivity!

Don’t be afraid to fail

Failing is part of success. No one gets it done on the first try, so better get it out of the way so you can learn and move on to the next thing!

It’s not whether you win or lose, fail or succeed, produce a masterpiece or a piece of crap–it’s the doing that matters. To quote a couple more go sayings that I’ve applied to writing:

“Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.”

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried. ”

So do it! The only failure that matters is a failure to try in the first place.

Dialogue: ‘said’ is invisible, and that’s cool

Who said what? You may feel the need to tag all dialogue with the speaker, but really it’s not necessary most of the time.

“Who’s there?” Jim asked questioningly.

“No one,” Bob stated defiantly.

“But I hear you, you answered me!” Jim exclaimed

“Nope, you are mistaken,” Bob rebuffed.

“I know what I am hearing, I’m not crazy,” Jim insisted.

“Are you sure? You’ve heard things before,” Bob reminded.

“I.. I have, it’s true,” Jim lamented. “But not this time!”

The above is pretty annoying, right? You only really need to have the first two dialogue tags to introduce the characters, then it’s obvious who is saying what.

“Who’s there?” Jim asked.

“No one,” said Bob.

“But I hear you, you answered me!”

“Nope, you are mistaken.”

“I know what I am hearing, I’m not crazy.”

“Are you sure? You’ve heard things before.”

“I.. I have, it’s true. But not this time!”

There, that’s much easier to read, and nothing was lost by changing it. You still know who is saying what, and you can get an idea of how they are saying it just by the words.

When you do need to tag your dialogue for clarity,  ‘said’ is pretty great. You may want to spice it up, but unless you really feel that the way something is being said is ambiguous, anything other than ‘said’ kind of distracts from the words, in my opinion. Your eyes just glaze over ‘said’ and your brain gathers the information of who’s talking without really registering it. It’s like a special power that ‘said’ has, and it’s pretty rad! I’d usually rather have that instead of drawing attention to the tag.

“You don’t need dialogue tags all the time,” said Jonas. “Often you are fine without any.”

vs

“You don’t need dialogue tags all the time,” Jonas advised. “Often you are fine without any.”

Do you see the difference? The first sentence you read through without pause. The second, you stop a bit to consider the tag and what it says about the sentence.

The invisibility of ‘said’ is not something you should discount!

 

 

Rain on me

I’ve been writing a scene with rain, and so listening to rain sounds in my ears all day. The sound of rain and thunder is calming somehow, but also adventurous and somehow gives me a sense of potential, of mystery. What is out there in the rain and dark? What sounds could the pattering and rumbling be masking? It also brings with it a kind of sense of foreboding, or warning–though not necessarily in a bad way, but somehow a feeling that things are about to happen.

It’s interesting to me how much sounds and music can affect the ideas I have and how productive I am in my writing. Rain is definitely a good one, and I hope to find more. These sounds may become like tools in a chest or potions in a cabinet… can I find just the right one for each scene?

What do you listen to while writing, and what type of writing?

Has subtlety been forgotten? Spoilers: it seems so, yes.

I just started listening to ‘The Girl with all the Gifts’ as recommended by a member of my writing group, and so far it is quite intriguing and really well written. However, one of my peeves has shown up to irritate me, and although I don’t foresee it as a sign of more to come, it still annoys me when it happens.

I was not entirely sure what this book was about when I started it. I prefer going into things completely unknown, I think it is more entertaining. So from what I could gather in the first few pages, it is set in some kind of post apocalyptic world, and some super-smart children who also sometimes want to eat flesh are being taught in an underground bunker/jail of a school.

I was able to figure this out mostly without being told directly. Except when I was.

In the opening, Melanie, our protagonist, is describing some of her teachers, and their different personalities. One of them she describes as hoarding the blue sticky tack that one puts posters up with, saying ‘once it’s gone, its gone!’ I thought ‘ooh, hmm, resource scarcity? Are they at war, or in a bunker?’

Then in another scene, she asks a different teacher a question about the population of some city, and he seems to get depressed and mumbles ‘it doesn’t matter’ as if by mistake. ‘Ahh,’ I thought, ‘I think I’m getting it.’

But then.

The teacher basically looks directly into the camera and goes on to say “The population is zero! There’s no one out there! Our text books are 30 years old!” in so many words.

Oh. Great. Thank’s for telling me all that.

The satisfaction of figuring out a hidden secret in a story is sort of ruined after being told it like you are a struggling child.

As I continue to read this story, it is really good and that little reveal is not relevant to the plot overall, so is just an annoyance for me, but it could have been avoided so easily!

Anyway, as I’ve said before, please treat your readers as if they are at least as smart as you are. It will make your writing much more enjoyable.