Writing Devices: Pros and Cons of Connectivity

By Joyce Audy Zarins

connectivity-tmMobility increases productivity. Although you write B.I.C. (Jane Yolen’s famous rule #1 on writing: keep your “Butt in Chair”), that chair now has wings. With the right connectivity between devices, you can write anywhere you are. There are definite pros and cons to being connected through different devices, so be aware to maximize the benefits while minimizing issues.

Your range of devices to write with determines how you will manage your work. Andre Dubus III famously escaped to his pickup truck for quiet, distraction-free time to write with a pencil on a legal pad when his kids were little. A colorful scenario, but don’t lose those pages or it’s all over because the only place that story is saved is in his head. Your desktop to laptop (or other device) linkage manages your manuscripts well, even if you are nowhere near your chair. If you need a smaller, more portable device for travel or taking full advantage of the local coffee shop or library, consider how you will transfer your manuscripts from that device to the one in your studio or office.

For example, even inexpensive little laptops can use One Drive to sync your text and images with your home computer. Vunderbar! But make sure to allow time for syncing and saving when shutting off the device and between it and your permanent set-up. When my elderly mother was not well I bought a nifty Microsoft Surface to use while mom-sitting if she was napping. I did not choose the Pro version because then I would have had to buy the software I needed. The basic version came with enough of the programs I use most. This mini laptop can detach from the keyboard (attaches magnetically) to use as a tablet. It’s portable, yet it has a big enough screen for work on long documents. However using Dropbox for syncing on it, which it supposedly can do, became a hassle. That’s because Microsoft has its own sharing system called OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive). It saves files much more slowly on the Surface than on my desktop. Ugh. Discipline builds character, right? The bottom line is that I could edit a manuscript while visiting my mother in rehab and it would automatically sync with my desktop as long as I always gave it enough time to really save the edits.

W-connectivity2So, what about your cellphone? The Microsoft platform phones are good ones that can sync through OneDrive and are compatible with the Surface. But I chose a Nexus 5 instead, based on recommendations. I had never had a Google phone before and didn’t really understand about the ubiquitous reach of “Godgle.” I do now.

No device comes with a manual of course, so I started clicking on things to see what each button on the phone did. One was a triangular icon labelled Drive. Probably for GPS street directions? No. The thumbnails that popped up as examples of the documents it could access included an older version of one of my manuscripts. Whoa. The itinerary from our trip to the High Sierra last summer. Huh? So this is Google Drive, which I did not remember having used before. This phone was hot out of the box. As I said, it feels like Godgle, like it’s omniscient. I now realize that the documents that so suddenly appeared in Drive on my new phone were ones that were shared with someone I took an SCBWI workshop with a couple of years ago or sent through my gmail account. They were stored in the cloud and accessed through Google Drive without my choosing to do so. So, the moral is beware what you share on gmail. Google can give the impression it practically sees each keystroke as you type your darling, but in this case, the excerpts had been gmailed. Think you’re immune from surprise connectivity if you use an Apple platform? I’m skeptical.

So, the tips when choosing your writing devices:

  • Be clear on whether each of your devices is compatible with Dropbox, OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), or another file transfer protocol. Other common ones are Sugar Sync, Box.Net, and Google Drive (the seemingly clairvoyant one on my phone!). Know how to save and retrieve your files between your devices and the cloud service.
  • Using the cloud can lead to new avenues and connections. Even Forbes Magazine lists benefits of these resources.
  • The biggest boon for writers is the ability to work on your document from anywhere, and sync versions where there is an internet connection. Mobility increases productivity. A cloud service can also be your external backup, give you storage beyond the limits of your hardware device, and allow you to share specific files with others. Let’s say you and an agent, or editor, are working on edits to your story…sharing in a protected environment is a good thing. Here’s an article about using the cloud with some useful insights and comments.
  • Inadvertently creating conflicting versions of your manuscript is the big danger. Be careful about honoring the sync and save times on your devices to avoid this. When you look at your manuscript file name in OneDrive note the day and time it was last saved. Then when you look at the same document on another device, check to be sure the device synced. The way devices are designed, the progress bar for saving may be small or unobtrusive, so know where to look. Also, Dropbox can sync with your Scrivener software, but sync first, before opening the document. You really don’t want to open a novel manuscript and then not be certain it is your latest version. Verify that everything is in sync.
  • You may want to add a date to the file name, although most devices readily show the date the file was last saved. It’s really the little green check mark verifying that things are synced that tells all.

Now go forth and be productive!

This article also appeared on WritersRumpus.

How do you use cloud computing when you write? What are your pros and cons?

Related post inWritersRumpus: Resolve to BACK IT UP!

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