I wrote my novel Regulation 19 in the cloud, In this post, I want to talk about why I did that, how I did it, and the pros and cons I found in doing so.
I’ve been an avid user or Google Drive (previously Google Docs) for a long time. I am a big fan of being able to access things like my household budget, my story notes, and drafts of my works in progress from any mobile device, tablet, or computer. I use Evernote for some of that stuff (future post idea: Evernote for writers), but when the situation calls for a document or spreadsheet, I turn to Google Drive.
Shortly before I started writing Regulation 19, my laptop died. (Don’t yell at me nerds. I know laptops never really die. By die, I mean it was broken to the point where I was unwilling to pay to have it fixed.) For some reason, I go through laptops like crazy. To be far, I was doing a lot of audio recording at the time. I was recording a weekly podcast (Six-String Bliss), and I was recording my own music. I had the laptop bogged down with a ton of audio software. But I was sick of the slow speed, the eight zillion unnecessary pre-installed programs, and the ridiculously slow boot up/boot down times.
I started researching alternatives, and I learned about the Google Chromebook. I liked the concept immediately. The idea of a machine that updates automatically and does everything in-browser was very appealing. As was the price: $250. I did a little more research and found that I could do almost everything I needed to in the cloud, including podcasting and recording music. The Chromebook also comes 100G free storage space in Google Drive, which is plenty for me.
So I headed to the local Best Buy to buy my Chromebook. (Note to readers in the future: Best Buy was an electronics store where we purchased TVs and Blu-Rays from lackadaisical, disinterested employees. Enjoy your jetpack!)
Buying the Chromebook was an odd experience. The Best Buy salesperson actively tried to talk me out of it. He warned me that it wasn’t a real laptop. He told me that for only $50 more, I could get a real laptop pre-loaded with a ton of programs. He said, “Did you know you can’t even run Microsoft Word on his thing.”
I understand. The Chromebook is a love it or hate it type deal. If you like the concept of doing things in the cloud, you’ll dig it. If you prefer to run your programs and save your files locally, you won’t.
Finally, I told the guy, “Look, my mind is made up. Can I just buy the Chromebook, please?”
After that reluctant transaction was closed, I headed home and fired up the Chromebook. I was impressed with it then, and I am still impressed with it almost a year later. The boot-up speed is crazy fast (there are almost no programs to boot). The updates are frequent and keep things running smoothly, with the occasional cool new feature popping up. The computer is just as fast today as it was the day I bought it.
One of my favorite aspects of the Chromebook is the keyboard. It is a real pleasure to type on this bad boy. It feels more natural than most keyboards. That may not sound like a big deal, but when you are typing out 90k-plus words, it becomes a major factor.
My only complaint about writing a novel-length project in Google Drive is that the document became very slow to open once I reached about the 30k word mark. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it did take a long time to get started writing. And it kinda killed the momentum a time or two. I intend to solve this by splitting the novel into 4-5 documents this next time.
I did end up formatting the novel on a PC. Next time, I may take a stab at doing that in Google Drive as well.
So do I recommend the Chromebook for writers? Absolutely! The keyboard, the speed of computer, and the neat and always growing feature set of Google Drive make for a great writing experience.