by Scott Rhoades
My crit group has discovered how useful Google Docs (docs.google.com) can be for sharing our work and critiquing online. We meet monthly in person, but during the summer months, life was so busy that we missed a couple months. Instead of getting together, we uploaded our stuff to Google docs and critiqued each other online.
It worked so well that we now upload our material before we meet for prereading and critiquing. This gets all the line edits and minor things out of the way so that our face-to-face meetings focus mostly on more substantial stuff. Now we're even talking about having a second meeting each month, online, so we can work through our manuscripts more quickly.
For those who might not know, Google Docs is a free online office suite created by Google. One of the components is a word processor. You can use it online, or you can upload and convert Word or OpenOffice documents. Once your writing is online, invite your crit group members to share it with you. (Tip: Sharing is easiest if you create a folder for your documents and share it with your group. Contents of the folder are automatically shared.) They can then add their comments and even comment on each other comments. As a result, Google Docs is a useful collaboration tool. I was skeptical of its usefulness when it first became available, but I use it all the time now at work and with my crit group.
If more than one person is commenting at once, both people's comments are saved. This created an interesting situation recently when Julie and I were commenting on the same paragraph at the same time. We were typing, but words we weren't typing suddenly appeared. A little spooky.
When multiple people view a document at once, they can also chat with each other. This makes it possible to easily hold on online meeting, if you want, with live discussion of the work.
If you collaborate with other writers, either a crit group or cowriters, you might want to give this tool a look.
If you've used it successfully (or unsuccessfully), share your experiences in the comments.