Mark O'Neill

Choosing your digital canvas for writing your book

digital canvas

In the past few self-publishing articles, we’ve discussed fiction versus non-fiction, figuring out your fiction niche, and how nothing is original anymore. At this stage, you’ve hopefully got your niche fiction idea and you’re ready to begin writing. But wait – begin writing on what? What platform will you use?

I personally write my manuscripts on Google Docs. I get weird looks when I tell people that, but I really don’t understand why. Do people think that all writers religiously sit at their typewriters with a big stack of paper? Some may do so, but on the whole, times have changed.

You certainly can’t do self-publishing on a typewriter. You obviously have the Microsoft Word fans who won’t consider anything else, but the problem with Word is that you have to constantly remember to save your work. And if you lose the file without backing it up? Then you’ve lost the lot.

For me, Google Docs is ideal. I can access my manuscript anywhere I have an internet connection, I can switch on offline access, and my changes get automatically saved within seconds. Those changes get synced across all devices so I can hop from one computer to another. Add in revision control to reverse any cringeworthy edits I may have made, and Google Docs becomes a writer’s best friend.

But Mark, people cry out, what if Google Docs goes down or Google wipes your files? Come on, be honest, what are the chances of Google’s servers having a complete meltdown and wiping files? How many backups to the backups to the backups would Google have?

By all means, make your own local backup of the Google Doc at the end of each day, but don’t dismiss Google Docs completely, because maybe a lightning strike might hit their data centers. And how is Google any different from Microsoft? Who’s to say Microsoft won’t nuke your Word files?

Alternatives to Google Docs

Of course, there are alternatives like Microsoft Word, Microsoft Notepad, LibreOffice, or a dedicated writing app with all the bells and whistles. But to be honest, too many features are just distracting. You spend more time tweaking your document than actually writing anything. Google Docs gives me just what I need, and no more.

Plus apps like Word or LibreOffice only store local copies of your files on your computer. There’s no automatic cloud backup. So what happens if the computer eats your manuscript file or the computer dies on you? You would also have to constantly remember to hit the Save button, which is easy to forget, and having multiple saved copies of your manuscript, all at different stages and versions? Talk about chaotic.

So now you’ve got your writing app! Next time, we finally begin writing! Thanks for being patient, but this is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s a lot of preparation involved before you actually start. But the actual start is just an amazing feeling.

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