How To – Using Google Documents to Plan Your Novel

Learn more about how I use Google Docs to outline my novels!

Hi everyone!

I briefly wanted to tell you about how I’ve been planning my last two novels. Ever since I started writing, I’ve been planning my novels out. Given the fact that I have to juggle story lines that evolve over several books, plus characters and technologies that don’t exist, one would except the need to have an outline or story map.

Originally, I used a journal. As in an actually bound, bought from Borders because I liked the cover, journal. And for a novel that started as an inside joke and has become part of me, it was perfectly good for that. It gave me space to sketch and draw ideas, illustrate battles and bullet key details. It worked for Brass Legionnaire and for Copper Centurion. Sure, there were a few mistakes made here and there (Pens, never a good idea).

Once I got to Iron Tribune, this was no longer the case. I rewrote the outline of the story three different times, resulting in three slightly different story arcs. The final product you read is a blended version of the three, but needless to say it was difficult to keep going back and forth and trying to figure out my notes on different components of the story. Also, this made it difficult to use the same digital maps/links/resources, etc between books.

You’d be surprised at how many province maps of the Roman Empire exist out there!

So for books four and five, I’ve used Google Docs.

In summary – Google Docs is an online word processor. The program is connected to your Google eMail and Google Drive, and can be shared with anyone around the world. Or not. It can be accessed by you anywhere in the world as long as you can log into your email.

Pros: Ease of use, can be used anywhere without emailing, links can be inserted and parts can be copied/pasted without a challenge. Free.

Cons: Most useful when attached to the internet, depends on your computer (doesn’t mean you can’t outline when you’re not connected, but it does mean you can’t update it offline. I suppose it is susceptible to being hacked or modified based on who you’ve shared it with. (You can change certain settings to not allow changes from people you’ve shared it with).

See the example below.

Screen Shot 2017-07-07 at 9.35.38 PM

Chapter/location and time – helps immensely when it comes to who is where and when. Also helps in writing the names of certain places correctly.

Characters – Who is talking, who is there, who is mentioned (Helps to remember names, titles, plot motivators, etc) – anyone noticing a theme?

Plot – My outline – not always entirely followed, but a good way to see how it flows. I’ve also done my own little highlights to name legions and a few other things I’ve hidden.

Note: Red simply means it’s finished.

Overall, I find this a simple to use but incredibly useful tool, as I can access it in a bunch of spaces. It doesn’t replace going back to the journal (which I still use for diagramming battles and scenes, or for connecting certain people or designing certain items), but it certainly is useful. I know other people swear by StoryMill or other programs. I may give StoryMill another try, but we’ll have to see. What do you think of using Google Docs for outlining (and writing, for that matter)?

Remember that Book 4 of the Steam Empire Chronicles is now available for purchase on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble. If you go to Smashwords, all my novels are on sale for 25% off this Month! It’s so easy, anyone can do it! Grab your copy today!

Author: Daniel Ottalini

Author of the Award-Winning Steam Empire Chronicles Series

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