Google Docs for writers

Inserting Links the lazy way in Google Docs. Gif from Tech Crunch
Inserting Links the lazy way in Google Docs. Gif from Tech Crunch

I love the Google Docs Office Suite. I rarely use the collaborative tools (that’s changing now thanks to Prose-ACK! and Pulp Toast) but I use Docs often to write my blog posts, edit scripts and write my novels. Last week, I found a very cool feature by accident that made my eyes almost pop their sockets. Today, I learnt of another time-saving feature that made me headdesk. And it is these two features, with Google Docs’ output to epub function, that makes me think that Google Docs might just be ready for epics of more than 50,000 words.

Insert link the lazy way
This is the feature you see in the gif above. Inserting a link is now much more intuitive and easier than ever. All you need to do is highlight, select “Insert Link” or press Ctrl + K, and the tool will immediately suggest links related to your highlight. I knew of the “insert link/research” feature as part of the research tools in Gdocs but did not use it until today (at the point of writing).

TechCrunch has a great article about this! And an old one too. ^^;

Automatic outlines!
I was proofing a fairly long contest Terms and Conditions document when I alt tabbed to another window. In doing so, my computer lagged and took my input keys to mean that I wanted to check my document’s outline. I didn’t, but it was a very cool way to see the content. Of course I had to apply it to my other projects, and it was here I discovered a tiny shortcoming.

Docs can detect outlines if you turn them into headers or bold them to make them stand out, but if you don’t and leave them as it is (aka Chapter 1, instead of Chapter 1), then it won’t detect them as outlines and will leave it as is. Still, fun!

Output to epub!
This was announced a few months ago and is the feature that made me giddy with delight. Epub is the most commonly used ebook format, and I actually used it to read Bloodschild (my current WIP novel) on my phone to get a feel of how it’d read on a mobile. I had to jump through a few hoops to get there (among them installing Calibre and tedious formatting) and so being able to output directly to epub makes my life easier.

Plus this also means I should be able to put Chap Fan on sale as an ebook, and so you can now take economy poetry with you!

Caveat: Now, I mentioned earlier that Docs may finally be ready for epics of more than 50,000 words. The reason I say this is because Docs has had difficulty in my experience, handling documents of over 51,000 words. Sometimes it’s the act of copy pasting from my Q10 to Google Docs it has problems with. Other times it’s me trying to add to the story that does it.

So can Docs handle a 100k word epic? We shall find out soon. And with that, good night (I should stop writing before I sleep, it’s bad for my schedule).

Text-only

I’m a great believer and encourager of minimalistic writing apps. Heck, I still have Baara’s Q10 on my PCs, even though it hasn’t been updated in years. because it simply works. I love these things because they remove all distractions and by extensions, excuses for not writing.

Where Q10 wins for me is in the Timer app. They have a nice timer add on that will show the number of words you’ve written after a set time, which is perfect for Nanowrimo word wars. It’s one of the best ways I find to get started when I have writer’s block.

The most gruesome version of this timer among writing apps, is WriteOrDie. It’s a little more extreme in the sense that if you started writing and stopped halfway, it would give you a grace period of up to a minute before it began deleting your words, one by one. This meant you needed to continue writing, but if you were stuck looking for a specific word or phrase, you wouldn’t be penalised too harshly.

Though seeing your words disappear one by one is a nightmare to any writer (which is why I don’t use it). :p

So imagine my surprise when I saw The Verge reviewing Flowstate as the writing app that will delete everything you’ve written if you leave your keyboard idle for more than a few seconds.

A few words is one thing, but imagine if it had been 200 words of prose? Dude, NOT COOL.

I think as a gimmick, it’s a horrendously bad idea. And yes, i think it is nothing more than a gimmick, really. There are far less painful and terrifying ways to get into the flow, and watching your entire page disappear because your cat startled you or your baby’s crying in the other room is a horrible way to get people to write. And at 10 USD for the app, I’d rather just get Write Or Die. It’s available on Mac, iOS, and PC, with Android coming soon.

I suppose if you are the kind of person who likes having to retype an entire assignment because you stopped for a snack or a toilet break, then yes, maybe Flowstate is for you. But seriously? Might as well spend that cash on the people who came out with the original concept, aka WriteOrDie.

[NaoRecommending] Journalling

Journalling is a habit everyone says you need to do every day. Some say you write in the morning, some do it at night, some do a single page, some draw instead of write. But the cornerstone is to do it every day, and it will lead to greater clarity, mindfulness, etc.

Sadly, journalling and me are a pair that’s no different from me and travelling. I look forward to it but the actual effort and time taken are done in short, intense bursts. Not unlike travelling but definitely not a way to create a habit.

Rather than beat myself up about it, I allow myself to write whenever I can. I recognise that my writing, especially stories, are ways for me to work through trauma, anger and generally strong negative emotions.

And sometimes, really positive ones too.

So I would like to recommend writing when you’re feeling pissed. When you’re angry at the inanity of your client. When you think your life completely sucks.

But don’t do it on social media. If you can, don’t do it anywhere people can access it publicly. The freeing thing about writing in a journal is that it’s meant only for your own eyes. There’s no “pressure” or fear that other people will judge you for your thoughts and words. So a book, or a password-protected folder, or even a Tumblr blog where everything is published privately works.

As long as only, and only you, can see it.

I actually keep an old exercise book for this. It’s now half-filled, beginning I think from early last year (which also tells you how often I write in it, and it’s not even 200 pages…). I use this book to write my thoughts, my fears, my anger.

So what does mine say? The latest entry, as of the day I’m drafting this blog post, is mainly about a client who’s an entitled brat. But in that one page, I also relive some happy memories and admit my relief.

Being honest with yourself is important. I open my older pages sometimes and puzzle over what I’ve written. The person who you were, is often different from the person you are now. Journaling helps me resolve my negative emotions and expel horrible thoughts. It also helps me take stock of where I am now.

So, what’s stopping you?

Grab some Pulp Toast this Comic Fiesta!

Excerpt from A Day in the Life of Charlotte Tang
Excerpt from A Day In The Life of Charlotte Tang

Would you dare to live your life on the whims of a dice?

What if the decisions we’ve made, the fights we’ve been in, were merely playthings of Gods?

What if the dice didn’t like the fact you were lucky?

What if you had to choose between biological warfare and a painful extraction?

What. If.

Pulp Toast/Roti Bakar Issue #1 explores all these and more. Themed A Roll of the Dice, take a chance and pick up a copy to read what happens in this thrilling anthology. We’ve got tales to make you laugh, tales to make you grin, and tales to make you facepalm. Regency Romance? Check. Slice of Life? Check. Murder? Check.

Earlier this year, Prose-ACK! brought you Chap Fan, a Poetry chapbook to whet your appetite. Come and join us at Booth G40 (TEAMworks!!!) this Comic Fiesta, happening from 19 – 20 December, 2015, for a dish of Pulp Toast/Roti Bakar! Each copy is RM19. ;)

[Quick update]

Temporary feather quill tattoo hidden by my watch strap and mi band

This month has been crazier than usual.

The way my schedule is setup, I just don’t have enough focus to write. Note that it’s not the time to write, it’s the focus. For some reason, this year is extremely draining. I can kind of guess where my time has gone, and while it’s not a bad thing, it’s not a completely good thing either.

So exactly how is Nanowrimo going, you may ask?

Not very good hahaha. I’m far more behind in my wordcount for the first time in years. Week Two is kicking my ass, but it’s not so much the week that is kicking me, as it is the energy required. Freelance today is also driving me nuts, though not in the way I expected.

I admit that right now, I feel like Slyvia Plath’s The Fig Tree. (Link leads to a Zenpencils comic, by the way).

There are a bunch of contests and writing places I can submit to, but there’s only so much of me that I can focus on. Do I do this, or do I drop it and do the thing that’s much more interesting? But then there’s also that other thing! And ah, I want to submit a story for that too!

So yes, my focus is distracted and all over the place. Everything is new again, everything is fun again, but do I really have the strength for it all?

The short and true answer is, no.

And so, I have to learn a new habit: Self-reflection and determination on what I can do.

Also, in case you were wondering, in the days since my BAH articles, I’ve managed to create and keep two simple habits that eluded me for the longest time:

Making my bed (current unbroken streak: 30 days) and drinking water when I get up (generally 5 out of 7 days a week).

And while we’re at it, Inktober helped cultivate a habit of creating/writing a day, and so now I have an unexpected problem: I can’t write and socialise like I used to do in previous Nanowrimos. My attention span is much shorter, but the ideas, when they come, are far more intense and full-fledged. Now I have to figure out how to take advantage of them.