Friday, December 26, 2014

Discover The Secrets Of Your Own Writing Process

By Joel Lee
Are you sick of writing 500 words per hour when you know you’re capable of so much more? If so, your problem might be the writing process — the physical act of getting words on paper. But if you want to make improvements here, you have to know what’s broken before it can be fixed and improved.
That’s where Draftback comes into play. This simple but effective browser extension will grant you insight into your own writing process and allow you to diagnose areas where you struggle and slow down. Fix these issues and you’ll see a boost in your words per hour, guaranteed.

Draftback Teaches You About Your Writing

In order to use Draftback, you have to use Chrome and Google Docs. This is problematic for those who have given up on Google, but the extension author has made no indication of intent to expand to other browsers or storage services, so for now there’s nothing that can be done about that.
First, install the Draftback extension from the Chrome store.
Then, navigate to Google Docs on the web and open up the document that you want to view. Draftback will analyze the entire revision history for that document (a revision is created every time the document is saved) and use that data to generate a playback video that shows those changes happening in real-time.
It’s as simple as that.
Due to the way revisions are stored on Google Docs, Draftback only works if the document is edited within Google Docs itself. If you had created a massive document using Microsoft Word, for example, and then uploaded that documented to Google Drive, the revision history wouldn’t be recorded. Thus, Draftback wouldn’t work.

Analysing Your Writing Via Playback

Depending on the size of the document and the number of revisions, the rendering process can take a while. One of my own documents, which tallied up to 26 pages and ~7,750 revisions, took approximately 9 minutes to render. The cool part is that you can preview the rendering process live if you want.
The result of rendering isn’t a video. Rather, Draftback provides its own playback web interface that shows the changes occurring in real-time complete with a play/pause button, a seekbar, and a playback speed slider that ranges from 0.1x to 1.9x speed. Along the left side, you can see an overview of the entire document as it changes.
Segments of the rendered playback can be extracted and shared with others, either by direct link or by embedding into a webpage. The embedded player isn’t a video either, but a simplified version of the Draftback playback web interface. It still has a seekbar and playback speed slider for convenience.
If you’re worried about privacy, have no fear. Draftback doesn’t work on documents if you don’t have permission to edit said document. Rendered playbacks are also private unless you explicitly share them with others. The extension is completely local except for when it retrieves your document from Google using a secure connection.
No one ever has unauthorized access to your data. Plus, Google Drive is secure as long as you set up your settings properly. Once that’s done, you should have no real worries.
This is where it gets interesting. Watch how your draft evolves into the finished piece. Are you jumping backwards and forwards? Do you set the titles and flesh things out later? Are you leaving notes for yourself and embellishing them as you reach that point? Do you occasionally dwell on one sentence in order to make it just right?

Sharing Playbacks Of Your Writing Habits

If Draftback seems a bit simplistic, that’s because it is. There isn’t much more to it than what we’ve covered to this point. It does one thing but it does it well, and the final result is what you’d expect.
The only problem is that Draftback bugs out when documents are too large with too many revisions. For my 26-page document, I wasn’t able to extract playback into an embed, though it worked just fine for another document that was just a few pages long. Other than that, the extension works pretty well.
Draftback’s biggest potential is found in its ability to share playback. You can have others — e.g. editors — view your writing process and give you tips, advice, and wisdom. If you can get playback from your mentors and models, you can study their writing processes to improve your own. I’d love to see a community rise up using Draftback as a foundation.

Is Draftback Revolutionary Or A Gimmick?

This is just one of many apps that improve Google Drive. Give it a try and tell us what you think.
Is it a gimmick or is it a revolutionary idea? Will you be using Draftback to analyze and improve your own writing? Share with us in the comments below.
Image Credits: Man hand on laptop Via Shutterstock Source:
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