Friday, November 20, 2009

Mother Knows Best (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Technology)

Kris and I recently gave a talk about how we write together. Like an old married couple (think the vignettes in When Harry Met Sally, finishing each other's sentences, saying the same thing at the same time), we told the story about how we met at the firm (a very pregnant Kris interviewed me), how we discovered we both loved writing (talking late one night while working at the firm, wine in hand), and the genesis of The Pecking Order (a particularly long, pointless, billable-hour-sucking meeting that ended in a decision to, yes, have another meeting). We praised the benefits of having a writing partner to share in the struggle, the disappointments, and the joys, and we also explained our process. And it goes a little something like this (hit it!): we loosely outline two chapters; Kris writes one chapter, I write the other; we switch and edit; we switch and edit again; and so on and so forth. And we do this all over email, putting our edits and thoughts in bolds and brackets, so our drafts end up looking like this (note, real live excerpt from early working draft of The Pecking Order): “You’re right. A little harmless flirting never hurt anyone. I should let myself have fun. I work hard and I deserve it,” I say [uncorking our first bottle of wine] [delete – we have a lot of champagne going on….popping the cork on our first bottle of champagne.]

Then we each put the latest version in our respective running documents (on our respective laptops), which may or may not match each other at any given point, depending on whether I remembered to email the most recent draft to my work account or Kris could access the document on vacation or the planets aligned and the heavens smiled on us, making all things domestic and career-related run smoothly. Goodness gracious, it's a lot of work just to type our process . . .

Some time back, my mom (who is ridiculously more technologically advanced than I am) questioned why we weren't using google docs. She might as well have asked why we didn't have the robot prepare dinner or why we didn't drive to work in a hovercraft. We ignored her. For years. Until we finally tried it last week. And people, let me tell you, google docs is all that. You can store documents online and choose who to share them with. Much like a yahoo or gmail email account, you can access your document from anywhere with internet access. Now, we have a single running document and anything we write, be it a single sentence or entire chapter, goes into that document. No more passing bolds and brackets back and forth through email - one of us can open the document and make edits that the other can see simply by logging in. It's genius, I tell you, and not just for writing teams--it's a good back up system for any writer, and ensures you have your manuscript at your fingertips anytime, anywhere.
So, yea, I guess I should have listened to my mother the first time.