Friday, September 27, 2013

How To Write on (Almost) Everything

Awhile back when we were going on a road trip to visit my in-laws, I figured out a marvelous system for having access to my current writing projects no matter where I am. (Obviously if your WIP is in a notebook, you just have to grab it and go.)

I thought I'd share the system I've worked out. It involves these two components...



And of course whatever technology I could forsee myself using to write. For me that would be my computer online or offline, my Android tablet online or offline, and someone else's computer--hubby's, my parents', my inlaws'--whoever. (You might use your phone instead of a tablet; I haven't done this because my phone is currently having a bad attitude.)

So... how does this work?

Basically, my writing projects are all saved as .txt files--a very "vanilla" file type allowing them to be easily created, viewed, and edited by any of my available technology options.

My Computer - Online
So, if I am sitting at my computer at home when I begin a new document, all I have to do is use my text editor (You'll have Notepad or Wordpad if you're on Windows, or--what is the Mac equivalent?). I create my document, and save it as a .txt file in the Dropbox folder on my computer.

There it is! The one with the handy little check mark telling me it's synced!

I can type some more, and whenever I hit "Save," it will sync those changes to my Dropbox account.

My Computer - Offline
Now... what if I'm not connected to the internet? Say my connection is down but I have work to do. Not a problem. I can still access the file here on my computer. I can work on it and save it, and then--tada! Whenever my connection is re-established, the changes will automatically be synced!

My Tablet - Online
(This option would totally work for a smartphone that doesn't have attitude problems like mine does.) I've downloaded Dropbox's free app from the Google Play store. I can access the latest, synced version of my WIP, work on it with Dropbox's built-in editor, save it/sync it, and the changes will instantly be reflected everywhere--even on the file stored on my computer back at home! 

My Tablet - Offline
Since my tablet is wi-fi only, there are plenty of times (like during road trips) when I don't have an internet connection. That's okay, because before I leave for my trip I can, from within the app, "star" the documents I will need offline access to and--voila! I will be able to work on them even without a connection. Again, next time I have a connection, changes I made while offline will automatically sync across the board! WOW!

(A quick note: If you're like me and you hate typing on a touchscreen for large amounts of text, you have a couple options. There are all sorts of cool Bluetooth keyboards out there: tiny ones, roll-up ones, fold-up ones... the important thing is to find one that is comfortable to type on. Otherwise, it's no more convenient than the touchscreen. The other thing that works well is handwriting recognition input. Some phones and tablets come with this feature. If your device does not, you can buy a handwriting recognition app called 7notes with Mazec, allowing you to write on the screen with your finger or a stylus. It will convert your handwriting to typed text. There's a little bit of a learning curve, but it's a great input method.)

Someone Else's Computer - Online only
Let's say I want to work on my WIP and the only device available to me is someone else's computer. Not a problem. All I have to do is go to and sign in/link my Dropbox account. There are all my files and a handy online editor! Hitting Ctrl-S will sync the document as will clicking the "Sync" button at the top of the page. When I'm done, I can click the menu button (looks like three bars stacked), go to "Account," and Unlink so the next person to use the computer isn't able to access my Dropbox account. (It's like signing out.)

Writebox online app. New blank document ready to go. Simple, isn't it!

(A quick note: I even like to use Writebox when I'm on my own computer because of the distraction-free, clean look. If you hit F11--or whatever the equivalent is for your computer--the window will go completely full-screen, hiding from view all the other distracting things on your browser. It's pretty handy!)

(Another quick note: Writebox has apps for iPad and iPhone as well as Chrome. I don't have experience with any of these, but they might work great for you!)

With this set up, no matter where I am, what I'm doing, or how many miles are left of our road trip, I can keep writing!

(This has been cross-posted on Word Painters.)

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