My writer’s group is finally back on track!
After a few months hiatus, we’re meeting regularly again and it feels great to have the encouragement and accountability. The only difference is we’re not currently meeting in-person due to the ongoing pandemic.
We’ve experimented with a few pieces of software for our critiques and meetings, and I wanted to spend a few minutes outlining some software we’ve been leveraging, along with Pro’s and Con’s.
A good tool for collaboration, but not the best because for true, fully-featured use your members all need Gmail accounts, and to use the Chrome browser. While Gmail is massive, there are still plenty of people who don’t use it. So while its tool sets are impressive, needing your members to be in Google’s ecosystem to get at them is a drawback.
We’re big fans of Dropbox. It allows everyone to submit their critiques securely, using version control. It now allows you to edit in your browser with Word, so as long as your group is using .DOCX or a compatible format, you can edit and add comments to collaborate. Plus you can use it with almost any email account or device. Our group wouldn’t effectively function without it.
The only drawback to Dropbox is the overall storage limitations, but if you are only using documents you can store a ton of them before needing to pay for any additional space.
We tried holding ZOOM calls because they were so intuitive, and it’s become a ubiquitous application during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, ZOOM ultimately didn’t work for us because of its time limitations. We run 90 minute sessions, and that was longer than ZOOM’s free tier allows. Sure, we could all keep re-creating meetings, but that was inconvenient. After our trial ran out we migrated elsewhere.
Discord has worked really well. No time limits. Solid audio and video as well as screen sharing. Plus we’ve been able to have consistent, asynchronous conversations in its channels. The only drawback for DISCORD is the gamer-centric focus. It is focused on gamers and uses lots of “cute” icons and lingo, that may work for its target audience, but for any less tech savvy writers in your group, might be confusing. Interface quirks aside, it’s a good choice, especially if you have a group that is knowledgeable about technology.
Microsoft has done a lot of upgrades to SKYPE since they took it over. This tool was fairly common on a number of devices even before COVID-19 turned us all into digital hermits. Skype is a good choice for group meetings because, like DISCORD, there are no time limits on the free tier. It also has proven audio and video, as well as a relatively simple interface for those who aren’t as strong with tech. Skype also works on both MacOS, Windows, and Android devices.
After experimenting with the different software listed above, my Top 3 takeaways were as follows.
- Use a tool that is accessible to the majority of your group
- Use a tool that has full functionality for FREE
- Use a tool intuitive for the least tech-savvy member of your group
I hope you are inspired and still writing out there, staying safe and healthy. If your writing group happens to be on hiatus, just know that it’s totally possible to keep your critiques going by leveraging technology!