Now that I’ve finished Unicorn Hunters and worked through comments and corrections, I’m reminded again how useful Google Docs is. So this post is for those who write or are in any way interested in my methods.
It’s worth mentioning that I started AND finished the first draft of Unicorn Hunters in January 2016, and here we are midway through March and it’s just about to publish. This is a huge achievement for me, yet it didn’t seem to be as much effort as previous books have been. I’m not sure if it’s because I enjoyed it so much or because I disciplined myself into writing a bit every morning and night and getting 2000 words a day completed. Maybe both. Either way, two months total for one complete novel? That’s a record, and I know I can do it again.
My Chromebook is small and lightweight
Something else that helped enormously is what I wrote it on. I used to write in Word. Then I would transfer the novel to Google Docs so that my author buddy Brian Copper could do a first-sweep beta-read and leave comments throughout. I then adjusted and produced a Kindle version, and I typically read that “fast” to see if anything else jumped out.
These days it’s different. Last year I bought myself a Chromebook, which is an inexpensive laptop with a Google OS (not Windows) that is centered around apps from the Google app store. Google’s Chrome browser is of course already installed, as is Google Docs, which is like a cut-down online version of Word, completely free.
My Chromebook is small and lightweight with around 8 hours of battery life and a super-fast “wake up” like a tablet. It’s ideal for writing and editing on the go. Of course it works better when connected to the internet, but Google Drive works offline too; it just continues as normal until you get back online, and then it re-syncs with the cloud.
That’s the thing about Google Docs. It saves to the cloud as you type, and so if you have to quit suddenly or the battery happens to die, you don’t lose a thing. I can write half a sentence on the Chromebook, shut it down, open the document on my tablet or phone, and type the rest of the sentence. (Of course, while editing and commenting is easy on small devices, writing is obviously much better done on a laptop with a proper keyboard.)
Anyway, the point is that my writing productivity has increased quite a bit. The 11.6″ Chromebook is more portable than my 17″ work laptop, and its battery lasts eight times longer. I can much more easily read and edit in the living room instead of making a decision to go to my office (which oftentimes means I don’t bother). And I can very easily sit in the van and write for two hours while my daughter is at basketball practice.
So, once the book is written – and I usually separate it into two or three chunks just because it can get a tad sluggish when you’re up above 30,000 words – I share it with Brian. I just set the permissions for the document (I choose from three options: Edit, Comment, and View) and allow him to comment. This means he can highlight bits and write comments in the margin. But also, there’s a fantastic “suggestion” mode that allows him to actually “edit” the document text; his suggestion is in pale grey, and it’s saved as a comment that I can either accept or deny. Very cool.
I can’t say enough good things about Google Docs. I’m sure other people have their preferred methods, but nothing comes close to this Chromebook for sharing. When we’re both online at the same time, I can see his comments appearing on the side, and I can reply instantly like it’s some kind of chat tool.