How to Use Google Drive to Save Your Masterpiece

Last night, PCS’s own Cheyanne Young tweeted about losing her flash drive and posted a picture of the broken device.

As a Web Developer who works remotely, I am intimately familiar with Google Docs – actually called Google Drive now, a free service provided by Google. Cheyanne mentioned she had not uploaded to Google Docs/Drive in some time (meaning her files were not up to date).

I’m here to show you (and Cheyanne) how to work in Google Drive and never upload or lose your files again.

First, you need a Google account. If you refuse to have anything to do with Google (and they deserve a lot of scorn for some of their behavior), then you might as well stop reading now. I cannot get around the account requirement.

Okay, now that we’ve sold our soul (created a Google account), go to:

http://drive.google.com

After you sign-in, we now have a place to write online.

Do NOT use Microsoft Word to create documents. I know we are all used to it but use the default Google Document file unless you have a very good reason to use Word. Why? Because we are making this process simple and the files available on multiple platforms. DOCX files require additional apps to work on Android devices. I’m assuming it would be the same thing for iOS. We are cutting that from our process.

If your current project is already in Word, cut and paste (be careful of Microsoft’s hidden characters) or do whatever you need to get the content in the Google Document file.

Now, a word of caution, unless you are working primarily from a laptop and using the local copy, I would recommend splitting up your project to keep loading times down. I split Portal at every 10 chapters (~10,000 words) but I also have all the chapters in another single book file in case I need to search for something that happened previously in the story. As I finish the 10th chapter, I copy all the content and update my larger book file. The book file is only for reference so I do not worry about updating it for errors I find in the chapter files unless it changes the plot. The book file is only for me and I only open it when I’m on my computer, not a mobile device.

Now you have an online work space to write your masterpiece. However, never trust that your files are safe with Google. On the left side of Google Drive is a link to download the Drive program. Install it and make sure Google Drive runs in your Startup programs (Windows) or the equivalent for Mac or Linux. Why? The Google Drive program will sync your files from the online server to your local computer. You can edit these files and Google Drive will upload them to your online repository to be available on other devices. However, you need Google Drive running in your system tray for this to work. If you are serious about backing up your files, keep it turned on.

For an extra step of security, I also run Goodsync nightly on my local Google Drive folder (as it backs up my work folders). If it detects any changes, it copies the file to my external hard drive. I will never lose my story files again.

I’ve strongly suggested using the native Google document file several times for convenience. On your tablet and phone, download the Google Drive app from Google Play or iTunes and you have your story available anywhere. When I’m putting my children to sleep, I can use my Galaxy tablet to work on my story. When I am out around town and I have a great idea for my story, I can use my phone to tap in a few words to fill out later when I get home. The Google Drive document file is cross-platform compatible. When you use Microsoft Word files, it can get tricky to open them up on mobile devices. If your publisher needs a Word file, just convert the Google document at the end. If you sync a bluetooth keyboard to your mobile device, you can now type out your story anywhere.

Here is another advantage of Google Drive. Like YouTube, you can set your files to various permission statuses. Most of the time, your files are set to Private. However, I recently had another author QA my short story for continuity or logic errors. I gave him only permission to comment on my story (he could not edit it). Google emailed him a link to my story and emailed me every time he commented. When I opened the story on Google Drive, I could see the comments and what section he referenced, just like Word. Google Drive is an excellent tool for online collaboration which is why we use it at my work.

I hope this helps save your work. Don’t be like Cheyanne. Lost files makes us all cry.