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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Grab your inspiration by the throat and CHOKE IT

Writing is hard. I keep waiting to feel that thrill of a new idea, but while I’m waiting for that elusive, magical power… I’m not writing.

Not writing is bad. So, I got to stop waiting and start typing, even if it’s uninspired crap. It’s better than laying around waiting to be moved by a universe that doesn’t care!

Words to Control + F

When in the process of splashing out words for a new story, we all find ourselves writing words we don’t need, repeating words, and being hacks in general. I’ve composed a list of these ‘filler’ words that I’ve found most often in my own work. Search for, and delete!

Very: Delete any that aren’t in dialogue.

Almost: Delete unless it is specifically necessary for a thing to almost be, instead of just being.

Nearly: same as above

Really: Delete if it’s being used as an adverb, unless in dialogue.

Still: When used to show something is continuing, you can delete it 90% of the time. To show something is motionless, often you can use a better word. (I bet you’ve used ‘still’ a dozen times for that already.)

Toward: Can almost always be changed to ‘at’ or ‘to’ or be removed.

Turn: My characters are constantly turning this way and that (even turning toward things!) and most of it is unnecessary.

Feel/felt: Jane felt the water lapping gently at her feet. versus The water lapped gently at Jane’s feet. The only reason to say feel/felt is if the character wasn’t feeling it before and now is, otherwise it is sort of taken for granted that they can feel it…

Watch/see/saw: Same as above. Unless there is a real need to make it clear that the something is visible to your character, it is kind of assumed that the viewpoint character can see what you are describing. Jane saw and heard the waves splashing, and felt them lap her toes. Seems silly now, right?

Annoying example of telling after you showed

I saw an advertisement recently for an app for an insurance company. The ad starts with a dark sky and stormy night over a large house with flickering lights. Scary music is playing and an old guy is looking terrified like it’s haunted. Cut to a family having dinner and a baby is flailing away at a smartphone. Voice-over says “These days, you can do anything from your phone. Even file a claim with yada yada” and so on. Pretty clever. I thought it was cute. EXCEPT. Right after the voice-over says “you can do anything from your phone,” the mother grabs the phone and says “Oh look, she was turning the lights off and on at the house.”

Yeah. I know. And now it’s not clever or cute anymore, it’s just irritating.

‘Showing’ in a very clever way THEN telling is so much worse than just telling. If you want to tell, just tell!

Imagine this version:

The same family is sitting around the table having dinner, but with the addition of grandpa. They are laughing and eating. “The lights were flicking on and off, and grandpa thought the house was haunted! But it was just little Betty controlling the lights from my phone, wasn’t it dear?” Baby coos “Is she that scary, Grandpa?” Cut from laughing baby to grandpa looking embarrassed. Then have the voice-over say the same stuff. This ‘all tell’ version is not as good, but not so infuriating either.

Why is ‘show then tell’ so annoying? Is it because it’s ruining something clever? Is it because it feels condescending, like explaining a joke right after you tell it? Is it just me?

Walk a new path

Walking generates ideas. It turns gears that churn the mix in my brain and make new things pop up. However, I’ve found that walking the same geographical location, turns up the same thoughts. It’s as if my mind is walking down it’s own internal path, and passing the same ideas over and over again.

I’ve been stuck on my current novel for a while now. I go out during breaks and walk around and think. But I’ve been coming up with nothing. Today, though, I walked a different path. It was barely different, just slightly off my usual path, facing a new direction, seeing new sights, and it felt as if my mind was pushing through the brush, forging new trails, and I had new ideas. Finally, my block is over, all because I stepped off the path just slightly.

Try it! If you walk or bike or run or drive to think, take a different path than you usually do, and I bet you’ll have some fresh ideas!

Word Peevs: we all have them!

Often times:   Why don’t you just say ‘often’?

Begs the question: 95% of the time you mean ‘raises the question.’

Familiar pronounced as Fur-miliar: Unless you are talking about your cat…

The problem is, is…: The thing is, is this is really annoying for me. The question is, is this annoying to anyone else?

Don’t get me wrong…: Whenever I read this, it irreversibly changes the tone of whatever I’m reading into a sing-songy newscaster kind of voice. Don’t get me wrong, if that’s what you’re going for, then do it! But otherwise, you might want to pick a less cliche phrasing.

Structuring sentences like this: “Turning in my chair, I vomited with irritation.” Instead of “I turned in my chair and vomited with irritation.” Or “I turned in my chair. Irritable vomit spewed forth.” Even worse is stringing the ings like “Turning in my chair and vomiting with irritation, I read this sentence.” Even worser if EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE is structured this way.

Scantily-clad: Another cliche, but this one particularly annoys me because nowhere else ever are the words ‘scantily’ and ‘clad’ used, except right next to each other. Please say something else.

And here are some from my writing/editing friends:

I’ll be there in three days’ time: Three days. Just, three days. Would you ever say “I’ll have three pounds’ weight of carrots please.” No, you wouldn’t.

For all intensive purposes: This is a double annoyance because the correct phrase, ‘for all intents and purposes’ is redundant.

Reply back or respond back: Could you reply forward, or to the left?

Unthaw: I have never heard this but have been assured it is a real thing people say when they mean ‘thaw’, not an ironic way to say ‘freeze’.

Alot: A lot, as in one lot of stuff. I have a bad feeling this will end up in the dictionary eventually, though.

I could of died: I may HAVE died just reading that. Please send help.

Definate: This is not a word. Please pay attention to the squiggly. It knows more than you.

Proberly and suposably: Probably you should read a book now and then. Supposedly it helps with understanding what words are.

Per se: I know some people who say this all the time, per se. I wonder, per se, if they know what it means.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more and post them as they strike me…

What are your word peeves?