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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Verify that you’re not insane

I got some feedback on my novella, The Observer, yesterday, and it was encouraging to hear that it was not a completely boring, confusing, self-indulgent mess as I sometimes feel it is in my spirals of confidence.

Getting your writing out into the real world in front of real eyes (not those excessively cruel/worshipfully sycophantic ones of your imagination) is quite helpful, and I highly recommend you find a group of trustworthy people to tell you what’s what about your writing.

Thanks writing friends, for all your help!

The angle

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Things don’t always look like what they are… this picture could be an undersea growth, an abstract splatter painting, the shadows of some grasses, or a bare tree and blue sky. It all depends on how you present it, the angle at which you perceive it…

I try to keep this in mind when writing. There are many ways to describe each event or object or emotion. And I try to keep in mind the over all goal of what I’m writing when deciding how to describe something.

It’s a tree, btw, rotated. 🙂

An opening I’m tired of

John Smith did something as another thing happened. “Unexpected statement that sets the tone of the story,” he said. 

Stories that open this way somehow lose my interest in an instant, no matter how interesting the things John is doing or saying are. Why? Because the structure of the opening is so familiar it induces a sigh regardless of the words? Maybe…

Turk Johnston vomited vampire bats out his glowing mouth while the gates of hell crashed open behind him and released a hoard of demons. “What a day to quit my addiction to summoning demons,” he said. 

Is it possible to write an opening in that format that is good? Somehow that structure just tells me the story is going to be schlock.

Debbie Wilson sighed at the crinkled photo of her husband as tears trickled down her cheeks. “I can’t believe it’s been a century and I still love you,” she said. 

Better? Maybe? But somehow, the structure saps everything out of it. I think it is the  name that really does it. Is it so important in any way that her name is ‘ Debbie Wilson’ that it has to be the first words we see?

She sighed at the crinkled photo of her husband as tears trickled down her cheeks. “I can’t believe it’s been a century and I still love you,” she said. 

Why is that suddenly so much better? But still, it could be improved to not be trapped in that simple structure of ‘here’s what’s happening everyone.’ Must everything be so direct?

Her withered finger hovered over his fresh, vibrant face, and she wished that version of him could rise above the crinkled, creased and torn surface–weathered as her own hand–that trapped him. 

Now I’m not being directly told ‘she is looking at an old photo and being sad.’

I guess that is really what it comes down to. Show don’t tell.

And now I know why I dislike that kind of opening!

Stop thinking up reasons not to write

Whenever I don’t know what to blog about (like today) I just open up ‘Several Short Sentences about Writing’ to a random page, and then I have a blog topic.

Today, I read this:

Anything you think you need in order to write–or be ‘inspired’ to write or ‘get in the mood’ to write–becomes a prohibition when it’s lacking. Learn to write anywhere, at any time, in any conditions, with anything, starting from nowhere. All you really need is your head, the one indefensible requirement.

So many ‘writer memes’ I see are about whatever special pen or lucky notebook, or certain ritual that writers have to do in order to write. They write at 4pm exactly, in a room with complete silence, with no messes and when they have their tea in a certain mug, and with a specific song playing. All this is, really, is a list of reasons not to write. Can’t find my notebook? Guess I won’t write today. Out of tea? Guess I won’t write.

Maybe instead we could come up with a list of reasons TO write. Have a blog and write a post every day. Write 50 words before you can have a drink at the end of the day. Write 200 words before you can watch your favorite show. Make up your own! Write everywhere, about everything!

 

Word trap

Still listening to Dorian Gray, but I’ve noticed a certain repetition of wording that happens so often it stands out. No one in this book ever sits down, they all invariably fling or throw themselves into their chairs and sofas–sometimes multiple characters in a scene.

I find myself repeating words like that, too. When I read back through something I wrote, I see the same word over and over, and I have to search for replacements for it.

Good to know even the best of authors can fall into repetitive patterns!

How would you describe it?

As a writing exercise, I often try to describe random objects or scenes that I see in my daily life. I don’t type them out–just in my mind. But I try to come up with the words to put exactly what I’m looking at right then into someone else’s head. How do I get across that particular color or shape, the specific way the light reflects there, or the exact way that smell made me feel?

Think of it like a daily work-out for your descriptive powers.