Posted tagged ‘Google Documents’

The experiment was a miserable failure

May 25, 2010

I have officially closed the books on my writing experiment in Google Documents. As I noted in my most recent post on the subject, it hasn’t proven to be the creative opportunity I had hoped it might be.

Sure, it’s a handy (and apparently safe) offsite place to store files, and I’ve certainly used it for that, especially now that I have a finished draft of The Sleep of Reason to tuck away. And it has been a dandy place to collect thoughts and inspirations for works in progress; I have a half dozen files there where I make occasional visits to set down this or that note. They can gestate there until I find myself magically ready to begin working on the given story. (I nearly always find that I have far more notes for a project than I remembered I had, which is a terrific mental boost when I begin orbiting an idea with the sense that I’m ready to begin work on it.)

But as a creative nexus it just isn’t working for me. I suspect I’m a creature of habit. I do all of my writing at the same laptop on the same table in the same room of my house. (In fact, when the time and funding came for me to replace my laptop, I got another, newer version of the same type — a MacBook, of course.) I tend to access Google Documents — at least for my times when I want to do actual original writing — in uncommon locations or times, and I have found that despite my wishes, I just can’t get myself into the essential creative mental place in those uncommon locations and times. That’s a bit of a disappointment, but only a bit, and it reinforces the awareness of how I should best foster my creativity. In that sense, I suppose, the writing experiment has not been a complete failure.

I only wrote one short story from start to finish in Google Docs. It was a piece of flash fiction that I never found a home for, and while I think it had a good foundation as a story, the work just never gelled. (Plus I’m not altogether sure about flash fiction. Sure, you can tell a whole story in under a thousand words — some sites look for stories told in six words — but it just has the feel of stunt writing. I also think that about NaNoWriMo, but expressing doubts about that endeavor has garnered me some negative responses, so, ’nuff said.) Anyway, I don’t know if the “failure” of that piece of flash fiction was due to the fact that I wrote it from start to finish in Google Docs or not (or if I failed to shop it around sufficiently or if it was just not a good story), but for the present, I’m soured on the experience. And I don’t tend to have great swaths of free time, which I apparently need to get into creative writing mode, when I’m away from that same laptop on that same table in the same room, so a quick visit to Google Docs isn’t a fair place to attempt to write a polished chapter. Note making, sure. But not whole creation.

But experiments are for learning. The learning is the achievement. And if an experiment fails, then something was learned. I press on.

Google Documents, revisited

September 10, 2009

You may remember me saying (way back here and here) that I’ve been experimenting with using Google Documents as a backup site for the writing I’m doing. In addition, I wanted to try writing several short stories from start to submission exclusively in Google Docs. It is a writing experiment of a sort.

Here’s what I can tell you now. It is a great tool for note taking. It is accessible anywhere a connected computer is. It seems to be reliable and stable. And it certainly seems to be ideal for backups.

I’ve found it to be unsatisfactory, however, for actual creative work. First of all, it is hard for me personally to get into my mysterious creative state of mind in such different settings. Whether I’m at the library or the office, I find I have too many interruptions and outside stimuli.

In addition, the display is not really reader friendly. I have not found a way to double space between lines. This makes the text hard for me to read. There may be a way to do this (perhaps importing text already double spaced and working from there?) but so far it has eluded me.

Because of this, I don’t think I could prepare a final document for submission in Google Documents. Maybe I’ll more to tell you in the months to come.

Google Documents – An Update

July 9, 2009

Some months ago I wrote here about my plan to begin using Google Documents as an offsite storage mechanism and my thought to use it as a sort of experimental creative writing site.

I haven’t made extensive use of it, but I have continued to dabble in it. I’m keeping notes for several story ideas and trying out bits of writing there, and I intend to work on these — wherever they go — exclusively in Google Docs.

I appreciate the nearly universal availability of the system: at home, when traveling, at the library, even at the office when no one is looking. It’s suited to the cluster approach I seem to have to creativity. When a thought strays into my mind that is perfect for one of the stories, scenes, or characters also bumping around in there, I can dip into Google Docs and make notes before the clever idea dissolves.

When I do the big rewrite of The Sleep of Reason I intend to post all of the new chapters in Google Docs both to make them more available to me and to assuage my phobia about keeping sufficient backups of my files.

One little quirk that had me puzzled for a while was the apparent requirement of the system that all Word files must have the .doc extension on them. I don’t routinely save my files this way (Word doesn’t require it), so I was mystified for a while when my uploads did not appear. Once I had that figured out it worked smoothly.

I’m sure there are other online systems that do the same things. Let me know about the ones you like.

A writing experiment

March 31, 2009

I’ve begun a writing experiment, though I don’t know why. I’ve started working on a short story that will be written exclusively on Google Documents. I noted in an earlier post that I had looked at Google Documents as an offsite storage device for my writing, the need of this springing from my hard drive crash of last summer and the loss of two chapters I had written.

I still haven’t done any serious uploading of my stories to Google Documents. It’s a manual process, and despite assurances from the site, I don’t feel confident about the privacy there (or even the longevity). I’ve moved a few things there to see how it works. If I know I’m going to have some computer time when I’m away from my laptop, I have put a story there so that I can access it (from anywhere in the world actually) and maybe do a little work on it. (I haven’t followed through though.)

My experiment is different. I want to try writing an entire short story in unfamiliar locations. I am curious to learn how important the familiar setting (in time and place) of my writing spot at home influences (or even allows) my creativity. If I am at the office, in a hotel, at the library, at a friend’s house, will I be able to call up my creative side and make coherent progress on something that demands concentration and unearthly focus?

I’m not making the experiment easy. I don’t even have a plot for my short story. I hardly have a character. I do have 23 words though. It’s a start. The opening sentence is one that more or less just popped into my head when I was driving one day. It deals with tone and circumstance, and I think it could prove fruitful, but without knowing where it might go, I don’t see how sitting down in some unfamiliar, noisy, interruptive spot is going to allow development. But it’s an experiment, and that’s how these things work.

Google Documents

February 2, 2009

As many of you know, I had a hard drive crash last summer in which I lost two chapters of my novel-in-progress, The Sleep of Reason. With much effort and gnashing of teeth, I managed to reconstruct those chapters and move on with the telling of the story. (It’s now five chapters later, and I think the wounds have healed.)

Sometimes I have to learn lessons the hard way, and this was one of those times. I now make regular backups of my work, in triplicate.

Nonetheless, I continue to look for effective and secure, offsite ways to backup and store my documents. There are a number of services that will provide space for such a thing, and given the volume I would require, most of them are free. Still, there is a part of my withered and craven heart that is suspicious of such sites.

Is the data secure? I know that the fancy that someone would steal my writing is grounded more in egotism than reality, but it could happen. (And I really do feel a profound confidence in this story that I’ve never felt in the many other things I’ve written.) Is the data safe? I’ve read of one offsite storage system that, oops, lost for all time plenty of data that was entrusted to it. And is the service really free? I can imagine a site offering a free service to the point that I become dependent upon it, and then explaining how I must pay if I will continue to use the service.

While I harbor a suspicion that Google intends to take over the earth, I’ve begun fooling around with Google Documents. It is an offsite storage and backup system, and since it is hosted by Google, I am confident that it will not have any hiccups that will cost me my saved files.

I’ve uploaded a short story and the latest chapter of The Sleep of Reason there just to see how things work. The upload process is a little more manual than I would like if I were moving great numbers of files, but for the little bit of fooling around I’m doing, it’s not a hardship. To have a Google Documents account you must also have a Gmail account, but I already do, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t object to having yet another email address to use for this or that.

For now I’m not going to use Google Documents as a backup site. I’ll continue to toy with it and see how it works. What I am finding useful about it, though, is how it instantly makes the files portable. Quite literally from any internet-accessible computer in the world, I can get to my files and do work there. The function I’m using in Google Documents has a rudimentary word processor in it, so I can tinker or even write from whole cloth, when I’m away from my trusty laptop (you are trusty now, aren’t you, laptop?). Any changes I make there won’t automatically feed back to my own computer, but I can do this manually when the opportunity arises.

So this post is by no means a testimonial for the Google Documents service. I’m just trying it out. If you have any experience with the service — or others like it — I’d love to hear about it.