Monday, November 2, 2009

Making use of Google Docs for my poetry

I have found myself recently using Google Documents to work on some of my poems. I thought is was worth sharing some of the advantages and limitations that I have experienced with using Google Docs for creative writing.

The main reason I started using Google Docs was because my 'editor' (ok my friend that also gives great honest and constructive feedback) set up a document for a poem he wanted to give me feedback for. Before this point I saw no reason to set up 'another' Google product. Now I have used it for a range of poems I will keep using it, but I am aware that is does have its limitations. I think I might keep adding to this post as new Advantages, Limitations and corrections come to mind.

Advantages -
  • It is easy to create an account in Google Docs, especially if you already have a Google account.
  • It is very easy to add people to either just view or be able to edit a document by simply emailing them an invite. Though I am not sure yet about the experience for those who are invited but do not actually have a Google account.
  • You can easily rename a document, which is handy because Google Docs will default to whatever words are at the top of a new document.
  • It keeps the documents sorted by the date that they were more recently updated.
  • Once you know where to look it does have a line that you can add to break the document up into parts. With my poems I mainly use this in order to keep older version(s) or comments compartmentalised.
  • You are now able to create and share folders that your documents are contained within (though I have not started to play with this yet).
  • I am able to get feedback from anyone in the world in a relatively secure way and therefore do not have to post in a more public forum in order to get feedback. This is an advantage as I may decide to publish a particular poem.

Limitations -
  • I would not use this as my primary way to backup my poetry or rely on it as a way to access from anywhere in the world. This is based on my experience of trying to submit poems for publication (last minute); being at someone else's home who only had dial up; and dealing with the lack of formatting that Google Docs provides even between Google Products. I was unable to login to my account due to the access issues. Though I have to admit this was an extreme example
  • It is difficult to transfer more than the text and keep formatting you may have applied. With a basic poem this does not matter but once a poem requires a particular structure then Google Docs is the worst place to keep the poem beyond editing the text.
  • I have always kept my account for my blog separate from my main Google Account, which in this regard makes it a bit messy when I want to post a poem I have been working on to my blog. I have dealt with this by starting to share a Google Doc with my other account at an appropriate point.
  • It is easy to email someone so they can access your document, but they may simply respond to the email with comments rather than adding them to the document. Though using the tried and true method of cut and paste solves this ;-).

Advice -
  • Keep you writing in multiple locations [I think it is time for me to backup my computer again].
  • I often email myself a copy between my different accounts (not just Google accounts), which helps with access and knowing that it is elsewhere just in case.
  • Google Docs is simply another location that you can keep your poems just in case something goes wrong with your personal computer that also allows you to share it with others.
  • Try to indicate through how you name, date or label your writing the version a piece is. As it can be difficult 12 months later to try and figure out which one is the latest version. [I am currently wearing my Librarian hat].
Lastly, Google Docs is simply a tool that I have found to meet certain needs at this point in time. If you find yourself trying to deal with a particular issue when it comes to your writing there is probably a tool out there for you.

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