I am currently away on an Internet Vacation. I’ll be back online on March 31. I have written one new post for each day of my Vacation so that folks don’t miss me too much while I am gone. But keep in mind, these posts have been scheduled ahead of time. Feel free to comment, as always, but note that since I am not checking email, I will likely not be replying to comments until I am back from my Vacation on March 31. With that said, enjoy!
A few months back I got a Google Chromebook. I wrote up some initial thoughts on my Chromebook, and now I wanted to talk about how the Chromebook works for me as a writing tool–which was, after all, the main reason I got it.
The Chromebook is very light-weight. To me it doesn’t feel much heavier than my iPad 2. This is great because I can toss it into my messenger bag without fear of leaning to one side when I walk, the way it seems I do when I put my work laptop–a high-end Dell of some kind or other–in said bag.
The keyboard feels natural enough to me. At least, I can type as fast on the Chromebook keyboard as I can on any of the other keyboards that I use (we’re talking at the rate of 75-85 words per minute) and I don’t seem to make any more mistakes.
Perhaps the one drawback is the “litter box” scratch pad for the mouse. Just about every laptop has them these days, but they are not my first choice in mouse manipulation.
I think the battery life is around 6 hours or so, but I’ve only run the battery down once, and it was an accident on my part. (I thought I’d plugged in my Chromebook to charge overnight and I hadn’t.)
Finally, the screen. Until I got my Chromebook, I had been doing writing away from my home office on my iPad using an external BlueTooth keyboard. One of the reasons I wanted a laptop was because the iPad screen was a little too small for me. I prefer to setup my writing screen with larger, readable fonts and when I did that on the iPad, there wasn’t much screen real estate left over. The Chromebook is better. The screen is much larger and when I am in full-screen mode, I have just what I need to get my writing done.
One sacrifice I made, switching to the Chromebook was to give up my beloved Scrivener for first and second drafts. I still use Scrivener, but now I use it for my third, polishing draft, from which I compile the manuscript that will be delivered to my editors.
After some floundering around with various simple, text-based editors, I eventually settled back on Google Docs. I was hesitant about this at first, but I soon realized that by writing some Google App Scripts, I could highly tailor Google Docs to my own needs. I could automate a lot of stuff that I’d done manually. Indeed, for the first time ever I am now able to capture what I write each day in Evernote and actually see what changed from the previous day. This is done entirely through automated Google App Scripts that I’ve written. I have an advantage here over people who don’t write code, but it is, after all, what I do for a living when I am not writing stories.
I found a template for Google Docs that more or less replicates the look and feel of iaWriter, a text editor I like on the Mac. I have since modified this template locally to include some things that I am used to having in my story templates. I am also in the process (though it is not completed) of adding some very useful automation to the template. This is another thing that I couldn’t really do with Scrivener. This automation consists of searching for a series of regular expressions in a manuscript and highlighting the results. The list of regular expressions allows me to easily identify where, in a manuscript, I’ve used adverbs, or nonstandard attribution tags (i.e., anything other than “he said” or “she said.”) This comes in very handy for automating the elimination of all kinds of amateurishness that still manages to sneak into my stories.
Actually, I’ve really grown to enjoy writing in Google Docs on my Chromebook. I open my manuscript, put the browser into full-screen mode and just write. That’s all I ever have to do. My automation and scripts take care of collecting the metrics I want, or sending my day’s worth of writing to Evernote. All I have to do is write.
Also, nice, is the fact that I don’t have to worry about saving. If I am connected to a network, my work is being saved as I type. If I am offline, it is being saved locally and then synchronized back to Google Docs when I am reconnected to a network. I’ve had the browser crash once or twice while in mid-sentence, but so far, when I start the browser back up again, I find that not a word of my writing has been lost.
My Chromebook has quickly become my tool of choice for writing. Google Docs is quite adequate for my needs, but the ability to customize it and automate tasks using Google App Scripts makes it even better. I can pull out my Chromebook at lunchtime in my office and write. I can flip it open in the evening when the kids are getting read for bed and write. The time from cold-boot to ready-to-use is 20 seconds, but I rarely go from cold-boot. This is great because it means I can stop writing mid-sentence to put the Little Miss to bed in the evening, and then when I come back to my Chromebook, open the lid and within a second or two, continue my sentence from exactly where I left off.
I will say with certainty that if not for my Google Chromebook, I would not be on a streak at the moment where I’ve managed to write fiction for the last 26 consecutive days. I’ve been able to do it because the laptop is so portable, the software easy-to-use, and the automation I’ve created allows me to focus entirely on writing and not worry about collected the other information I want–which is now done for me automatically.