Heart Breathings

Why I Write In Google Docs (Instead of Scrivener!)

March 1, 2019 by Sarra Cannon

Writing Tips

I used to be a die-hard Scrivener fan, and while that program is still one of the very best out there for fiction writers, I have fallen in love with writing in Google Docs. Today, I’m going to give you my top 3 reasons for why I write everything inside Google Docs now, instead of using programs like Scrivener or Word.

Top 3 Reasons I Love Writing In Google Docs

In today’s video, I take you through the biggest advantages to writing in Google Docs, as well as show you a peek inside my writing and editing process. Watch the video below or head over to my YouTube Channel to comment over there.

Prefer to read, instead? Just keep scrolling, and I’ll take you through my top reasons, one at a time.

Reason 1: Auto-Save

If you’re a fellow author, you know that one of the absolute worst things that can happen to you when you’re in the middle of a novel is losing your work. I want to cry and pull my hair out just thinking about it.

I have had files get corrupted and lost in the past, and it was the most heart breaking experience for me. Totally devastating. And, of course, even when you rewrite those lost chapters, you always wonder if the first round wasn’t completely brilliant in comparison, amiright?

When I was using Scrivener, I was constantly losing snippets and getting confused about which file was the most recent file. This may not be an issue if you’re always writing on the same device, but I am a multiple-device kind of person. I write on a laptop when I’m out, and I write on my PC when I’m at home. It wasn’t easy to switch between devices with a program like Scrivener or Word (at least it wasn’t several years ago).

When I discovered the beauty of Google Docs and its constant auto-save to the cloud, I was hooked.

Google Docs literally saves every keystroke as you make it. So if the power blinks or lightning strikes, you have everything saved automatically. And it’s not just saved to your device, which might be prone to crashes or unexpected catastrophes.

It’s saved to your Google Drive. So, unless the worst happens and Google’s servers go down entirely (in which case, it’s probably already the apocalypse, so who cares about your novel, anyway), you can’t lose your work.

Let me say that again. YOU CAN’T LOSE YOUR WORK. It’s practically impossible, and that makes using Google Docs as your primary writing software the best choice if you’re worried about losing pieces of your novel.

You can also use Google Docs when you’re offline, in which case, it will save to your current device until you connect to the internet. At that point, it will sync with your cloud and back up what you wrote while you were offline. These days, though, I’m so rarely offline that this isn’t a concern for me.

Reason 2: Seamless Use Across Devices

This is another biggie! Because Google Docs is a cloud-based program, you can literally access it from any device that can connect to the internet.

That means that I can write a few chapters at home on my PC, get up and run my son to the dentist, pull up my novel on my phone while I’m waiting for him to be done, write a few more paragraphs starting where I left off earlier at home. All without me ever having to worry about saving the document. It’s like magic!

No matter if I’m working on my tablet, phone, PC, or my Chromebook, I can very easily access my document. Even if I don’t have access to my own computer or device, I can visit a friend and as long as I have my Google password, I could sign in on her device and start writing on her computer. No special downloads required.

This in itself is reason enough for me to love writing in Google Docs. I never have to save to a jump drive or email my work to myself and then try to dig it up later. I don’t have to worry about whether I have the most up-to-date file on my device. I just have to pull up Google Docs and start writing, anytime, anywhere, any device.

Reason 3: Amazing Collaboration Features

Okay, so if all that wasn’t enough to convince you that Google Docs is an amazing option for writing software, maybe my third reason will pull you over to my way of thinking.

The level of collaboration inside Google Docs is awesome.

As a publishing writer who uses beta readers and input from others in my editing process, Google Docs saves me weeks per projects. WEEKS!

Here’s what the process would look like using something without online collaboration features:

  • I use a minimum of 4 beta readers on each novel and story I write. If I were using Scrivener or Word, I would most likely have to wait until I was completely finished with my edits before I sent the completed beta-ready file to each of the 4 of those readers.
  • Once each reader received their file, I would then have to wait for them to finish the entire document (which could take days) before they sent it back to me to start my own edits and changes.
  • When the betas were finished with comments, I would receive 4 separate files back from them. I would have to go through each file individually, making changes on one master file.

With Google Docs, here’s how it changes:

  • I finish a chapter or a section of my novel in Google Docs (let’s say Act One to start) and at that point, I share it with my beta readers. They access it immediately through Google Docs.
  • My beta readers begin reading the novel while I am still working through final edits of Act Two.
  • Betas are all working off the SAME FILE online. This means they can skip a typo if someone else caught it first. They can also engage in discussions about the work. For example, if one beta thinks a character’s reaction is over-dramatic, my other betas can weigh in on whether they agree or not. If they were working in separate files, they might not have commented on that section at all, and I might have had to go back to them later and ask about that section. This saves me time.
  • When I am finished editing Act Two, my beta readers can work on that section while I am finishing Act Three, and so on. Then, while they are still working through the novel, I can already be starting back at the beginning, working through their comments.
  • I can completely skip the part where I have to go through 4 separate documents to make changes and see edits. It’s all in one place.

Can you see how this saves me weeks for each novel? My beta readers can be making comments on the first part of a story while I’m still finishing my edits, and I can be working through their comments while they are still reading the ending. Google Docs eliminates the waiting game between each pass, and for an indie author, this is a valuable time-saver.

The big advantage to writing in Google Docs

What Do You Think Of Google Docs?

So, there you have it. My Top 3 Reasons why I write in Google Docs and highly recommend it to other novelists. No, Google Docs doesn’t have all the fancy features of a program like Scrivener, but for me, the benefits are huge enough that I’m willing to miss out on those other features.

I would have to say, the biggest downside to Google Docs (besides the lack of Scrivener’s features), is the grammar and spell-check are nowhere near as valuable as Microsoft Word. For this reason, I do still run my final file through Word’s grammar check before sending it off to my editor. This way, I am giving her as clean a file as possible.

Other than that, Google Docs is hands-down the best writing program for authors that I have found. Between the time it saves me, the peace of mind I have from the constant auto-save, and the ability to seamlessly switch between devices, Google Docs is my go-to for every novel.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever tried writing in Google Docs? If not, what is your preferred writing software?

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Sarra Cannon


  1. Heather says:

    I write in Google docs for all the same reasons. I’ve also used it on co-writing projects, which is awesome as we were able to discuss scenes, watch each other write, and make suggestions, all in real time!

  2. Rana Fawaz says:

    Hi Sarra

    I live in the UK and have been following you for the last few months. I have purchased your HB90 diary and I have to say I love it. I also love all your video’s and the invaluable information you have so kindly provided. I am currently writing my first adventure thriller novel and am half way through the editing stage. Its hard work but I am loving it.
    I am currently using scrivener for my writing. I have to say that I love it as it helps me organize all my work in progress and I am able to see all the chapters where I want them. I do of course back up my work through saving and then emailing to myself as well as backing up to google drive. But I had never thought of using google docs for my writing accept for backing up. Like you said I think I will use scrivener to organize my writing and then add each chapter as I go along onto my google drive. I guess that saves unzipping the file and uploading it again onto scrivener. The collaboration side sounds amazing too as I am currently looking into finding beta readers after I have finished self-editing my manuscript. So that would like you said save me so much time in the long run. Thank you again for your help and advice.

    1. Sarra Cannon says:

      Thank you for trying out the HB90 planner! I’m so happy you like it!

  3. Diane Ziomek says:

    I have used Google Docs for articles and smaller projects, but just recently started using it for my books. I love the versatility, because I can write on my laptop or iPad; whichever is closer at hand. I do love Scrivener, but am, like you say, limited where I can use it. I do have you to thank for the change, because I watched a video where you talked about your Chromebook. I actually have Book 1 of my next series open in Google Docs as I write this. Thank you! 🙂

  4. Chickadee says:

    I recently started using Google Docs and am glad for the primer. Something I’m curious about is the web hosting site you use for your blog. Would you mind sharing?

  5. Darynda Jones says:

    I still write in word but save everything to Dropbox. Similar idea. I can work on anything from any device but it doesn’t have the auto save and if the doc is open on one device and you make changes in another it gets tricky. Might have to look into this. Thanks!

  6. I don’t typically write in Google Docs but I’ve been considering it for the past few weeks after a little accident with my Word doc. You strike some good points. I’m a believer. 🙂

  7. Tricia Lynne says:

    This was so timely. My old computer died and I am currently writing on a 12 year old laptop that is running awesome using Word 2003. I was wondering about Google Doc’s and if it was easy to use. I am going to try it. How do you import stuff from Word into Doc’s? Is it a matter of copy and paste? I think I will try it and see what happens. Thank you. BTW, since I am going to publish this year, do you have any ideas for where we can get cover art? Or do you have any advice on formatting? I am doing research as to where to publish, it’s a vast wide world out there. Thank you for everything.

    1. Sarra Cannon says:

      You can simply upload the word doc to Google Docs and then have it converted to a doc. It’s super easy! The cover art and formatting questions are harder to answer in a comment, as they take some time to explain so many options! I’ll be hosting a full self-publishing course in May, though, where I go into detail on all of those aspects of the process.

  8. I will be honest and say I am not crazy about Google Docs. I write in Word, but more important is I do not have Word 2016. I have Office 365, which is a Cloud-based program. Yes it does cost, but I also run a blog, and I can start my document on my Ipad, and finish on my desktop (Laptop is forthcoming for me). I love the ease of moving between the two devices.

  9. I was looking over your books and noticed my first and second novels are around the same size as a few of your books, so I need to know, how to you get around the performance issues of Google Docs? It seemed like performance began to be noticeably slower after I got beyond fifty thousand words. My editor prefers Word, which means I’m still bound to Office at the end of the day, although she says her mind is open to using Google some day. I would LOVE to boot Microsoft office to the curb, so any insight you can give me would be great. By the way, some of the other tools in the Google office suite can be super helpful. I wrote my last book of short stories in Google. Google drawings is great for creating text templates for character write-ups or scene outlines. Google Jam Bored is awesome for creating high level story boards, and it could probably also be used for character write-ups etc.

  10. GJ says:

    Hello Can anyone help? I’ve been working on the plot to Book 2 on my Google Docs on my mobile and just discovered everything I wrote these past two weeks has gone, despite it saving fine every day. Any advice? Someone said I might be able to find it in my mobile phone’s cached data but no luck so far. I stupidly hadn’t saved it elsewhere.

  11. GJ says:

    Hello Sarra

    I’ve been working on a World Binder for my series in Google Docs on my cell phone and I’ve just discovered that everything from the last two weeks hasn’t saved, despite it saving fine each day. Have you got any advice? The documents got my Beats and everything for Book 2. Someone mentioned I might be able to find it in my phone’s cache but I can’t access it.

    Many thanks

  12. jaistuart says:

    Hi Sarra,

    I’ve been using Scrivener for a few years now but I’ve decided to make the switch to Google Docs as well. After reading your blog post I seriously started looking into it as an alternative. The ubiquitous nature of it being a webapp (cloud saves and everything) made me choose to go with it as well.

    Thanks for the post.

  13. Hi Sarra, I’m NEW to novel writing and have taken your advice about using Google Docs. My question is, is there a certain format/program for specifically writing stories??? Thanks for any help you can offer!!!

    1. Sarra Cannon says:

      Hi! There’s nothing specific to novel writing for Google Docs, that I’m aware of. But many people use Scrivener for novel writing, because it is a software specifically designed for that purpose.

  14. Michael says:

    Thank you very much for this video Sarra! I just bought an iPad and I am attempting to write this book..Among others! I also like Google docs and I have a lot of stuff written in it but it’s all over the place! I thought perhaps scrivener would be something to help me put it all together but you’ve got me rethinking it! Frankly I’m in my 60s I don’t see why I need to do this but I do feel the need to do it! Thank you for a very insightful video

    1. Sarra Cannon says:

      Scrivener is a great tool for organizing, so maybe give it a try! I do love Docs, though! I don’t know if there’s a way to transfer from Docs to Scrivener, though. I honestly haven’t tried to use Scrivener in years, and I think there have been several updates! Sorry I can’t be of more help here.

  15. Michael says:

    It’s interesting to note that I came upon your video when I was looking to transfer my Google docs documents into a Scrivener… And I have like 80,000 words written in Google Docs all over the place so I thought I could transfer it to scrivener and get that book together! Rethinking it now… I don’t even know if that’s possible … transferring from Google Docs to Scrivener …do you?

  16. jp shaw says:

    Hi Sarra, thank you so much for this article. I, too, have made the switch to using Google Docs and I absolutely love it! I love the collaboration features. I love that I can use it everywhere I go. I do have a question for you though as I write romance as well. How do you set up your manuscripts in Google Docs? ie: formatting such as 1.5 space, (spaces before or after) do you use any font you want for publishing? If you have another article on this you could direct me to that would be greatly appreciated. Now I’m heading over to your FB page to join your group LOL.

  17. Erica says:

    Sarra, I’ve found that Google Docs slows down a lot once you get around 20-30k or more words in a document. Do you split your manuscript up into sections or do anything to deal with this??

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Sarra Cannon

Hi, I'm Sarra!

I have been self-publishing my books since 2010, and in that time, I've sold well over half a million copies of my books. I'm not a superstar or a huge bestseller, but I have built an amazing career that brings me great joy. Here at Heart Breathings, I hope to help you find that same level of success. Let's do this.


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