The Ultimate Guide to Writing with Google Docs

Writing with Google Docs

Google’s suite of Office software has been growing and improving vastly over the last few years. We’re at a point now where Google Docs, their browser based word processor, is one of if not the best ways to write your content. Full stop. For all of your text editor needs, Google Docs is positioned to be superior to even the old standard, Microsoft Word.

Google Docs is clean, easy to use, powerful, and versatile.

All joking aside, Google Docs really is a tremendous boon for writers.

Let’s be completely clear here–Google Docs is a writing, drafting, and editing tool only. It is not designed for laying out your book. Use InDesign or something similar. Anything that can output a PDF ready for printing.

But that’s not what we’re about today. Rather, we’re going to talk about writing. And why, if you haven’t already, you should consider Google Docs as your writing solution.

A Feature Rich, Easy to Use Tool

I’ll touch on a few of these below, but rather than attempt to reinvent the wheel, I suggest reading this excellent post from HubSpot highlighting a few lesser known Google Doc features.

For authors and book creators, Google Docs offers a few terrific opportunities.

First, its free. Literally. Using Google Docs only requires a Google Account, a web browser, and an Internet connection to work. Even then, Chrome offers a plugin that allows you to work offline with an existing Doc.

But that’s almost always going to be irrelevant. Most writers do their writing in locations that have wifi. Consider this (somewhat dated) piece that surveys where authors write. The common thread? All of these locations will most likely have Internet Access.

Additionally, Google Docs saves constantly and offers a rich history of changes. Alongside that, Google Docs is one of the easiest writing tools to collaborate with. You can share access to others by email or with a link. And you can gate that access so they can only view, view & comment, or have full access to edit.

Not only can Google Docs serve as a well-rounded writing tool, but it can work right through the editing and revision process. While there isn’t a track changes function like MS Word offers, users can still add Comments and create chains of comments that can be marked ‘resolved’ as you revise.

Features You Want

Okay, let’s start with the most basic needs you have. Writing. Google Docs has the features you’d expect, as well as a deep font library that allows you to add needed fonts. You have the Heading and Style control you’d expect from MS Word, though not quite as much fine-tuning layout control.

The toolbar should remind you of the MS Word Home ribbon because they’re almost identical. Control page size, margins, and paragraph styling are all there.

There is one key option that Google Docs doesn’t offer: Gutter Margins. Keep this in mind while writing. You’ll need to adjust the margins to allow for your gutter while laying out your file, which might add a page or two to the overall book size.

But the lack of some formatting options shouldn’t deter you. This is a tool for writing, not designing your book.

Along with the constant saving, being web-based means you can work from anywhere with Internet access. That includes from a mobile device too. I’m not opposed to just jotting down notes with pen and paper, but sometimes I think of just the right way to phrase a thought or I realize I need to remember to expand on a point–then I just open the Docs App on my phone and make a note or add that sentence.

Once you’ve got that draft ready, Google Docs gets even better. I’m well versed in Word’s track changes and comment features, and I’ve worked with a number of writers on editing projects that involved passing a file back and forth with tracked changes that needed to be reviewed and accepted. Google Docs offers simple sharing options:

Once shared, anyone with the link can hop into the Doc and view, comment, or edit based on the access you provide. While the lack of track changes can make inline editing a little less awesome, you can create edits in comments easily enough and with the revision history you’ll never actually lose any content that is edited. The slightly weaker editing tools are balanced by the easy of sharing and real time editing.

Google Docs has a great distraction free writing mode too (called ‘Full Screen’) that minimizes the toolbar and allows you to just focus on the writing. Which, as I’ve mentioned, is the point here.

In terms of the first steps–word processing, copy editing, and beginning the content editing process–Google Docs is unparalleled.

But Wait, There’s More!

Sort of more anyway.

I don’t want to stray to far from my main point (that Google Docs is the best way to write and edit your initial content). But Google Docs has another layer of usefulness.

The Add-ons Library

If any of you are familiar with WordPress, you likely understand the how awesome Add-Ons can be. You start with a base design–your web site or blog–and add to it the functions you need. WordPress hosts a rich library of Add-ons for any feature you can imagine.

Google Docs is going down that same road, with a library of Add-ons that enhance your writing experience. As I work on this post (yes, I’m writing this in a Google Doc), I’ve got a SEMrush Add-on running to help me hit my SEO targets. And once I’m done, I’ll add this content to WordPress using an Add-on that automatically turns a Doc into a blog post.

The quantity and quality of Add-ons currently is mediocre. But more are being added almost daily. For example, Grammarly has a beta for their Doc add-on running currently. The kind of functionality you’ve come to expect from your writing tools is quickly coming to Google Docs in the form of customizable add-ons.

When the Writing is Done

You’ve finished the content. You’ve gone back and forth with your editor and you’ve gotten feedback. Now you’re ready to layout the book.

Stop using Google Docs at this point.

Download the file and use InDesign (or your preferred layout tool) to finalize the book file. Sure, Google Docs can do Headers, Footers, and Page Numbers. In fact, using the Insert command, it’s quite easy to do so. But that’s not what Google Docs excels at.

No, you should leave the formatting to software adept turning a text document into a lush, print ready file.

If you’re an author or you’re creating a book for a class or your business, or literally any other reason, I cannot say enough how valuable Google Docs can be. If you’re on a budget, you get the best parts of Microsoft Office (Word and Excel) completely free.

Google Docs is the free word processor for creating documents of all kinds. Yes, you may still need to crack open a different program to do the layout, but when it comes to just creating and editing your drafts, Google Docs is the answer.

Are you a young writer? We share our 5 top tips to help you with your writing

At Lulu we are passionate about encouraging young writers to fulfil their potential, which is why we are proud to support Brighton Festival 2018 Peacock Poetry Prize celebrating young poets aged 11-19. We want to nurture and inspire all young writers so we’ve listed our top 5 tips to get you on your way.

Continue reading “Are you a young writer? We share our 5 top tips to help you with your writing”

Lulu launches novel writing competition with Writing Magazine – your chance to win a publishing deal has teamed up with Writing Magazine to offer a complete publishing package, including marketing and PR, to one lucky reader.

The prize includes:
• copy edit
• cover design
• full interior layout and design
• set of proofs
• 10 author copies of the finished book
• marketing to trade and media
• distribution to the book trade for at least a year

We’re looking for a previously unpublished novel manuscript, in any genre, but which we feel has obvious mass appeal and deserves to reach a wider audience. will publish the winning book in 2018, with cover design, marketing and PR support..

To find out more about the competition and how to enter visit the Writing Magazine website or click here 

Meet the four winners of the Brighton Festival, nabokov and ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition – Beki Turner

Together We Can by Beki Turner


I live in Brighton with my daughter Rosie and my dog Frankie, and I have been here since 1999, moving impulsively from London after ending up at a party in the basement of a record shop.

Brighton is a very special and magical place, and it felt right to base my story here. I wanted to highlight the subject of loneliness, and how people of all ages can be isolated and lonely for a number of reasons. I’ve worked extensively with homeless individuals and quite vulnerable adults over the years.

Everyone has a reason for ending up in Brighton, and sometimes people get lost along the way.  I wanted to show how kindness and coincidence can bring people together and change lives, and how people coming together can be really powerful.

Perhaps the characters in my story will be developed in the future because they all have a story to tell and have the potential to help each other.

I have always loved writing fiction as a hobby and promised myself that if I was one of the winners of the competition, I’d start taking it seriously…

Extract from Together We Can

Gav is drunk. You can see it in his ordinarily militant body; His usual brash march is more of a meaningful flounder as he meanders across the pebbles. Gav opts for an unnecessarily loud exit from the blaring serenity of Brighton beach, striding past the bank holiday families with their middle class picnics, and the hipsters with their disposable barbeques bought with their disposable incomes. They are all being circled and Gav ruffles the seagulls’ feathers as he strides noisily past them.

Tourists and locals huddle around tables, drinking premium beer from flimsy cups as the sun starts to set. Gav turns back to look at the glitter bomb ocean. The sky is as beautiful as a Bierstadt. Gav breathes in the wafts of charred meat, cigarette smoke, aftershave and salt. He listens to the voices shouting over the deafening base lines and the sirens overhead. He pulls his last can of lager out of his pocket. It’s still perfectly cold. He holds the can for a moment, feeling it penetrate his hands and enjoying the sensation. He cracks it open and takes a swig. The beer simmers in his mouth and the taste is wondrous. And at that exact moment, Gav knows it’s a good time to die.

Meet the four winners of the Brighton Festival, nabokov and ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition – David Benedictus

Protected Housing by David Benedictus 

DavidbenedictusI am 79 and I am a theatre director and writer. I have written lots of stuff – too much really – and published about 15-20 novels from The Fourth of June (1962), a scurrilous book about Eton, to Return to the Hundred Acre Wood (2009) an authorised sequel to the Winnie-the-Pooh books.

I am a member of Nightwriters, the writers club in Brighton. My second published novel, You’re a Big Boy Now (1963) was filmed by the (very) young Francis Ford Coppola in New York. I worked for the BBC on many occasions and was commissioning editor for drama series at Channel 4 from 1984-1986. I was a London tour guide and ran a horse-race tipping service for 25 years. The Daily Mail said I was going to marry Princess Anne , but I didn’t. At the BBC I initiated the programme Something Understood.

I have 4 children, a QC, a novelist, a psychotherapist and a theatrical producer. They are amazing. I have also written a number of musicals, one of which was started in 1955 and is still awaiting a full production

I don’t know where the idea for Protected Housing came from but with just a few hours to go before the deadline I thought I ought to do something  and this is what emerged. It’s not like anything I have written before and although it would benefit from a second draft I like its poignant atmosphere.

You can read more about David’s life  here

Extract from Protected Housing

‘It really was the most marvellous garden,’ she said. ’Not that I had anything to compare it with.’

He tried to recall it. ‘It smelled so beautiful. No chemicals of course then, and it rained only when you needed it. I remember a tree,’ he said. ‘Because I used to sit in the shade and make up names for things. Then you came along, and you thought of miraculous names. Like Flutterby.’

‘You improved on that one.’ She smiled. Although her skin was so wrinkled these days, she retained a smile to charm the birds out of the trees. They seldom spoke of those days because they seemed not only to belong to a different age but to two different people entirely.

‘Would you like to go back?’

‘Well, we couldn’t, could we? For one thing, we’d never find it.’

Meet the four winners of the Brighton Festival, nabokov and ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition – Saba Sams

Nice Light by Saba Sams


Saba Sams just graduated from the University of Manchester with a first class degree in English Literature with Creative Writing. She has now moved back to Brighton, where she was raised. ‘Nice Light’ is her second short story to be published. The first, ‘What Do You Know About Love?’, can be read online at Forge Literary Magazine. A few of Saba’s poems have also appeared in places such as Ink, Sweat and Tears, and Cluny MCR.

Nice Light’ was written in Manchester, on an evening spent missing those hot Brighton summers, when drunks stumble up the Old Steine, and teenagers crowd the cycle paths on the seafront. It’s a story about right now, about living in the present tense, told by a protagonist who can do nothing but cross each bridge as she gets to it. But this story is also about those tiny moments of self-reflection, those glimmers of memory, recognition, or random kindnesses that remind us who we are, or where we’re going. It’s about that time of day when the clouds split to let a little sun through, and a few minutes of nice light remind us that the ordinary can hold something extraordinary.

Extract from Nice Light

One of those days in Brighton where the heat is thick. Everybody lying on the grass watching everybody else. Ice lolly sticks all over the playground. Dogs with their tongues out, dry. Max sleeping next to a crate of Foster’s. No clouds. A teenage boy in a grey t-shirt tapping me on the shoulder. Sweat patches, smiley. Tells me he’s looking for alcoholics. Making a short film for college. Just thought he’d ask around the park. Hot day, you know? Writes his mobile number on a rizla. Don’t have to decide now, just something to keep in mind. He’d appreciate it.

Put the rizla in my back pocket. Remember being seventeen, on a bus. Woman with a sandwich turned around in her seat to tell me to go easy on the drink. She’d seen me on this route before. Couldn’t even walk straight at eleven in the morning. Better kick it before it’s too late. Got a whole life ahead of me. Not a thing to waste, a life. I thanked her for the advice and got off at the next stop to buy four K Ciders. Guess I’ve got it written all over my face.

Meet the four winners of the Brighton Festival, nabokov and ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition – Jenny Gaitskell

On the Threshold by Jenny Gaitskell
My-Wife B&W


My default state is daydreaming, and some days I have to go to work and pretend to be sensible, but I write stories whenever possible. While I’m writing, I can go to places I’ll never see, travel in time, meet impossible strangers and be somebody else for a while. When the stories are published, my hope is that readers will imagine something new too. I blog about daydreaming, my creative brain (who calls herself Gonzo) and the unexpected encounters which inspire me. If that sounds like fun, have a look on, or come and say hello on twitter @jennygaitskell.

When I wrote , I’d woken up into one of those mornings when everything feels impossible, even making stuff up. Under those circumstances, obviously the best thing to do was mess about on the internet, and that’s how I found the theme for this anthology, Everyday Epics. Yup, I thought, each day’s a toughie. My page was blank and my mind was blank, except for a woman stuck behind a door. I asked myself, if she could only make herself take that first step, out into the world, what might she try next?

Extract from On the Threshold

On the threshold, Emily told herself: you can become the version of you that’s needed, send another letter, take one more step forward. She took it, and closed her front door quietly behind her, for the sake of neighbours who’d never noticed her. Once again, the street smelled of last night but the sky was pink with possibility. Passing across the square, she recognised, from identical mornings, another early riser. He didn’t see her smile, was too busy examining the inside of his frown. There is always tomorrow, she thought. She was right on time for the park, and ready for the dog walker’s half-hearted salute, which might really be no more than a shaking of the leash. She threw her first ever greeting, but it fell short. The walker didn’t turn to pick it up, didn’t wait to see what might happen next. But a word had been spoken, and that was better than yesterday.

Brighton Festival, nabokov and ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition winners announced

Brighton Festival, nabokov and are delighted to announce the four winners of the ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition which took place in May over the Brighton Festival celebrations. The standard of the entries were all very high and it was certainly a difficult choice to come down to the final four writers. The lucky winners will have their stories combined with the stories from the Storytelling army into the Everyday Epic anthology and published by

The winners are:

Protected Housing by David Benedictus, Hove
On the threshold by Jenny Gaitskell, Lewes
Nice Light by Saba Sams, Brighton
Together we can by Beki Turner, Brighton

The judges all felt that these stories captured the spirit of the ‘Everyday Epic’ and really make the reader stop and think about how even the smallest event can be epic and life affirming or changing.  Well done to all four winners and we hope that they continue to write stories to share.

If you want to read all the winning stories and the stories from the Storytelling army once the book is published you can buy copies from bookshop and other good retailers. To find out when the book is available to buy please follow us on our social media channels.

Brighton Festival, nabokov and ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition shortlist announced, Brighton Festival and nabokov are delighted to announce the shortlist for the ‘Everyday Epic’ short story telling competition which took place in May during the Brighton Festival.

The shortlisted writers are: 
Protected Housing by David Benedictus, Hove
In the slave room by Norman Miller, Brighton
Master of the rolls by Michael J Fleming, Eastbourne
On the threshold by Jenny Gaitskell, Lewes
Nice Light by Saba Sams, Brighton
Together we can by Beki Turner, Brighton

The four lucky winners, who will have their stories combined into the Everyday Epic Anthology and published alongside the Storytelling Army’s stories,  will be announced tomorrow!

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