Writers can be very protective of their work. Members of writers critique groups sometimes worry about handing over their life’s blood through email. It’s just too easy to forward information, even accidentally. Uploading files to web sites such as Meetup.com still means multiple copies of a valuable document floating around. After all, critique group members must download to make edits. Copyright law protects any written work, electronic or otherwise. Still, writers don’t want to have to worry about hijacked ideas and possible law suits over copyright infringement. That’s where Google Docs can help.
What Google Docs does
Google Docs is a free service that allows the centralizing of documents. Rather than waste reams of paper and expensive printer ink on multiple copies of documents, writers critique group members can place their work in Google Docs. Google Docs is secure. Placing a document on Google Docs does not constitute Web publishing.
Google Docs allows edits and comments
With several members in even a small critique group, there are multiple edits. Each set of edits must be considered separately and eventually sorted into the master file. This is time consuming for writers and sometimes frustrating.
With Google Docs, a single file can accept comments by everyone granted access. Google Docs keeps a file of all comments, who made them, and when they were made. It’s possible for writers critique group members to edit documents, which everyone else in the group can see and comment on, if they wish.
Google Docs features
All writers within a critique group may not use the same document formats. Google Docs converts major software formats to its own internal representation. All members of the group look at the same copy online using the Google Docs page itself. Formats become a non-issue. Files can be exported after polishing to any of several formats including plain text, rich text, HTML, Open Document format, Microsoft Word, or even Adobe PDF. While it doesn’t accept all systems (such as WordPerfect) directly, WordPerfect is capable of saving documents to (for example) rich text (*.RTF), so it’s easy to upload from most systems.
Real time collaborative highlighting: Critique group members can discuss and highlight sections in real time, either on the phone or on Internet voice software.
Bulk uploads allow writers to receive critiques for more than one document at a time.
Writers critique group members can place up to a total of one gigabyte on Google Docs. Individual files can be no more than a megabyte.
Auto linking can be a boon when applied to comments. A Web site related to a point made by critiquers can save pages of explanation.
Google Docs may be best known for its small business uses. The document sharing tool also offers writers a range of tools that combine old school word processing with present day email. Will Stape wrote a great article on the subject. Writers of novels and short stories can turn Google Docs into a superior writers critique group tool.