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Can I write a book in Google Docs?

By Jill Steves

Google Docs is one of the most-used word processing programs on the planet, and is free for anyone with a (once again, free) Google account. So it'd be a pretty natural thing to wonder if you can write a book or novel using Google Docs. Here we'll answer that question for you.

The short answer, of course, is yes. Google Docs is a free word processor that runs in the cloud and allows you to create, edit, and collaborate on documents with other writers (which are several of the feature it shares with Scene One). It's safe, secure, and easy to use (just like Scene One), and is familiar to anyone who's used other word processors such as Microsoft Word.

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However, while it's is a great tool for many things, Google Docs is not the best choice for writing a book or novel. In fact, it's a pretty poor choice. We've already discussed why writers need specialized book-writing software but we'll mention a few things that Google Docs is lacking.

Google Docs can't handle story structures and project management

Google Docs' biggest problem revolves around its inability to easily manage your story's structure and words.

Google Docs is based around working on a single document at a time. And anyone who's worked on a document of even modest length (say, just 10,000 words) knows that it can be a real challenge to track down the start of a particular section or scene, or, say, to keep track of where you've gotten up to in your editing. Now try scaling those problems up to 100,000 words (which is the average length of many novels.) And while these things aren't impossible to do in Google Docs, they're just extra difficult.

The way authors go about writing their books is by breaking them up into chapters or scenes, or sometimes even stubs that can be as short as a few sentences. If writing a book in Google Docs, you'd have to create individual documents for each of these chapters or scenes, and then constantly open/close them as you went. But it's worse than that: each document requires its own name (e.g., "Scene 12" or "Romeo speaks with Juliet on the balcony") so that they'll be sorted and displayed in the correct order in the document list, which might sound simple enough, but what happens when you have to change the order of several scenes? Or delete just one? Even if you have a fancy naming and numbering scheme, you'll suddenly have to rename potentially dozens of files for one reshuffle!

And I don't even want to think of the dark magic you'd have to use to combine them all into a single document to export your manuscript for sharing or publication.

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Google Docs is missing many standard book writing features

On a lower level, Google Docs is simply missing too many standard (and basic) book-writing features for you to even bother. It won't track your daily writing stats across your projects (which many authors use to keep themselves motivated). It's harder to search your entire manuscript for instances of story elements (such as characters, plot devices, locations, etc.), and it certainly won't build and maintain a story wiki like Scene One can.

And the bottom line is this: Google Docs isn't good for writing books with simply because it wasn't ever intended for that job. It was built as a clone of Microsoft Word, which itself wasn't built to write books and novels with, but to create business-related documents. And it does a really great job at this! (There's a reason we all know how to use it.) But, as authors, we need better, tailor-made software.

If you're currently on one of the following platforms, check out why Scene One is the best app for writing books, and the best alternative to Google Docs.


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Posted in Learn to Write on 2020-12-04 17:49:25 - google docs,