Using a (Galaxy Note 8) Tablet to Write a Novel

Looking for an alternative to lugging your laptop around to finish that novel? Frustrated with carrying your phone, your laptop, and your writing journal to make sure you have everything to reference when writing that next chapter? Let me tell you a story about abandoning my laptop, and using my new tablet instead.


( Jump to the tutorial» )

The last couple of years I have been traveling many weekends, which used to be my dedicated writing time. The reason for all the traveling was (and is) to attend lindy hop dance exchange and workshop weekends… kind of like mini-conferences about lindy hop dancing technique and methodology.

It’s been a frustrating process, trying to balance my dancing and my writing. Lindy hoppers are pretty obsessive about the hobby… and the culture itself isn’t super forgiving for those who want to dance but also maintain other passions. That said, I’ve been modifying my attendance at dance events (maybe I don’t attend all the classes, and write instead during the day so I’m fresh for the evening fancy dance). I’ve also been modifying the technology I take with me.

researchGermanFactsThe last dance event I attended, I brought my pen+paper notebook, and my smart phone. I did research on my phone in the hotel room while The Boy taught dance classes, and wrote my amnesia character’s backstory in the notebook. It worked out pretty well.

I was excited to be able to do research and get inspiration on the road, and not have to bring an extra bag just for my laptop. We dancers bring at least three pairs of shoes for a weekend, just to give you an idea of how packing works.

But there was a gap. Even though I save my novel drafts to Dropbox (I love their versioning so I can compare differences between first draft and #25), it’s almost impossible to edit a Word docx on a smart phone.

I was determined to not carry my laptop around. But I couldn’t bite the bullet on getting a tablet because they were expensive, I knew I wanted an Android so I could utilize all my apps on my phone, and I wanted one known for handwriting recognition.

Enter my newfangled device, the Galaxy Note 8.

Writing by hand is very important to me. It gives me time to think. So I bought the Galaxy Note 8 because it comes with a stylus designed by Wacom. Those of us who are designers in our day jobs know Wacom is kind of the standard for a good stylus that recognizes pressure, proximity to the screen, etc. I figured if I found a tablet which recognizes my handwriting, I could mimic writing in my journal on the tablet. So far, it’s been pretty awesome.

Using a Tablet to Write a Novel

I created a handy-dandy infographic to illustrate my process, mainly because words can muddy what is otherwise a simple process…


Sync via Dropbox

Ensure your latest draft is on Dropbox, then install the Dropbox app on your tablet.

Immediately save a copy of your file to your actual tablet, in case you are ever without data or wireless. That way you can continue to work if you’re “unplugged.” When you’re done with editing/writing, navigate to your documents folder and share the file back to Dropbox.

I  edit the file using Polaris Office, which apparently can read and edit the docx file format. This is awesome, because I can write and edit whenever I want on a thing that fits in my purse and will sync with my desktop so I’m prepared for the inevitable hours-long, binge-writing session.

* I have found that if I leave the file open, let the device sleep for hours, and then try to continue to work, the cursor jumps all over the place. I had to save the file, close it and the app, and re-open for the cursor to stop freaking out. Which then allowed me to stop freaking out, because for ten minutes I thought I’d have to scrap the entire process.

Build Your Digital Research Library

If you use the Chrome browser, you can install the Evernote browser extension. Makes it super easy to save research, articles, etc across the web. It’s like a scholarly, private Pinterest.


Also don’t be afraid to go to the library and take pictures of your research and upload those photos to Evernote. You can literally digitize your entire research journal!

Take Your Research with You

Install the Evernote app on your tablet. A tablet is kind of the perfect size for consuming the research clipped into Evernote due to its large paperback book size (5.5″ x 8″).

Evernote lets you save full PDFs, images, and copies website content so you don’t have all the distracting ads. I love that I can pinch-zoom the large PDF scans of the old Ohio Daily Statesman so I can pull quotes from the local newspaper.

That’s it!

Pretty simple, right? So far it’s working well for me. I like to write on the sofa, in a terrible slouched position, which just doesn’t work with a laptop. Having a tablet I can angle any-which-way to write on and then sync, is awesome.


9 thoughts on “Using a (Galaxy Note 8) Tablet to Write a Novel

  1. Google Drive/Docs is another option for automatic syncing between devices. All you need is a web browser on your device.

    With Google Drive, however, I *strongly* recommend downloading and saving locally a copy of the latest version of your files. You just never know if your account access will get cut off, and the last thing you want is all of your hard work to be stuck in Google limbo.

    Organizing your Google Drive using Folders makes downloading simple: For example, I have a “Writing Projects” master folder under which I have sub-folders for individual projects, marketing collateral, etc. All I have to do is ‘Download’ the “Writing Projects” folder and I get a nice, neat .ZIP file with updated copies of everything else in it that I can own/store on a storage device that I physically control.


    1. I’m glad you’ve found a method that works for you!

      I like Google Drive as well, except for the whole offline bit.

      My problem is I’m often in a wifi-less (or data-less) zone, so I can’t even tether with my phone to get my documents. So I download ahead of time, do my updates, and once my device is back in wifi, it automatically updates via Dropbox to all my other devices.


  2. Stupid question maybe, but what program do you actually use to write? I’m thinking of getting this tablet but I’ve never written using a stylus before. Is it a slow process turning the handwritten text to type?


    1. Not a stupid question at all! This is a great question where I feel like taking video of my process might be useful.

      So I use WPS Office, formerly known as Kingsoft Office, because it is a free app that can read Microsoft Word documents. When you pull the stylus out from its handy dandy hiding spot, the tablet knows you have released the stylus and will pull up a yellow legal now pad view that takes up about half the screen. As you write, you can watch the words transcribe into typewritten text.

      Sometimes it misinterprets letters… I’ve realized if I want a lowercase “s” I need to write it in cursive, things like that. But I think they updated the algorithm recently, I feel like it doesn’t mess up as often.


      1. Great! Thanks. I’m going on tour soon with my job and was thinking of getting one of these. I have a novel to edit and I’d like to do a new one as well for NaNoWriMo and beyond.
        I was worried it wouldn’t actually be any good, but I think you’ve convinced me! 🙂


  3. Great article with loads of tips. Now I finally know why my cursor was jumping around, and how to stop that madness. Never realized the flexibility of Evernotes, either. I used it in a limited way in grad school. I’m still fuzzy on Dropbox, though. Will look it up now that I know something of its value. Again, many thanks!


    1. Glad this helped! Dropbox is a way to save files to “the cloud,” i.e. to a place that isn’t your computer hard drive. Like another commenter mentioned, you could also use Google Drive to do the same sort of thing, and it might be more convenient if you have a Google account already.


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