Review: Write

I was recently asked to review a new writing program — Write!

Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 11.54.24 AM(Image credit: http://www.writeapp.co)

And after trying it out for a few weeks, I came to enjoy it. It’s a simple, easy-to-use, distraction-free text editor that allows you to separate documents into different projects/folders. I frequently use it for writing blog posts, writing out forum posts for my online class, and any random scenes that pop into my head.

It does have an interesting feature that I found pretty nifty. You can “publish” documents to the Write! website if you need or want someone to check out your work. It’s not like publishing to WordPress or KDP or anything (nor is it published publicly), but just a way to share your work with others. Once you publish it to the Write! website, you can link others to the document, even if they’re not Write! users. It has Cloud capabilities, so you can also pick up right where you left off on any computer.

While it does have some other features, such as the ability for Markup language and textile headers, I found its best feature to be its simplicity. It’s simple and easy to use; no fancy, overly complicated tutorials to learn.

You can check it out here.

Advertisements

Editing Your First Draft: 7 Tips and Suggestions

Before you send off your manuscript to your editor or beta readers, it’s important to get editing, first draft, tips, suggestions, novel, book, writing, self-editingit in tip-top shape. No beta reader or editor wants to slog through careless typos and errors that could have easily been fixed by the author.

I know what you’re thinking… but, Allison! Isn’t that what editors and beta readers are for?!

The answer is no.

I used to do beta reading from time to time on Goodreads. I’ve seen some really awesome manuscripts. But I’ve also seen some really horrible ones, too. I don’t mean horrible as in the story was bad; there were just so many typos, silly grammatical errors, or careless plot holes…so many that it just made me absolutely hate the story itself and internally curse the author. It was very apparent that the author had done zero proofreading or editing.

All authors should take the time to edit their work once the first draft is complete (yes, even if you were self-editing along the way). A sloppy manuscript only screams, “I’m lazy and I don’t care what you think of my writing!” 

Okay, maybe not quite like that. But every sloppy manuscript I’ve read made me doubt the author’s ability as a writer. Every careless error detracted more and more from what could have been a really good story, usually to the point of my being totally fed up and wishing I could just stop reading it.

Editors will also appreciate your efforts. It saves them time from having to correct the little, silly errors such as typos, when instead they could be focusing on the bigger picture of your story — plot and characterization, or the voice and syntax of your writing.

This doesn’t mean you need to have a Ph.D in English. I do suggest picking up a reference book for English grammar. English for Dummies is a good one; it explains grammar rules in simple terms and offers good examples.

Once you’ve brushed up on basic grammar and punctuation, here are some  suggestions for editing your work. I did all of these (pretty much in this order, too) after I finished my first draft of Waiting for You. But do what works for you!

  1. Step away from your story
    Once you’ve finally written those glorious words — The End — take a break from your first draft. After you’ve spent God only knows how many months of grueling over every scene and chapter, it all looks the same. Your brain knows what it’s supposed to say or sound like, so that’s what your eyes see when you proofread. Step away from it for at least a week. A month is great if you have the luxury of time (and not having a deadline). You’ll be able to come back with fresh eyes.
  2. Proofread your manuscript in various media
    If possible, read it in different mediums: print out your manuscript or load it onto your e-reader. If you print it out, mark up that bad boy with colored pens and markers (I’m a nut when it comes to colored pens). If you use your e-reader, load it as a .mobi or .epub file, and you should be able to “highlight” any troublesome passages. Also, make note of any phrases or words that you’ve used too much, as well as those pesky adverbs.
  3. Read it aloud
    Seriously, read your work out loud. You’ll be able to hear any clunky clauses or phrases, or dialogue that doesn’t quite sound genuine.
  4. Read it backwards
    You’ll be better able to pick out errors, as your eyes will be able to read each word on its own, rather than taking in the sentence or clause at once (which, like previously mentioned, your brain already knows what it’s supposed to say).
  5. Use your word processor’s handy dandy search bar
    Once you’ve gone through your manuscript a few times, go back into your word processor (or Scrivener, if you’re in the cool club), and use the search function to find any of those phrases or words you made note of. Reread those passages to see if there’s a more appropriate word or description you can use.
  6. Nix was, said*, very, etc.
    Or any other “weak” verb or adjective. I heard the tip some time ago to search for the word “was” — it was actually very eye-opening. I found that I was using the imperfect tense in a lot of places where preterite tense conveyed the action much more crisply. (i.e. “His hands were trembling.” vs. “His hands trembled.”) This also goes for the word “very.”*A note on dialogue tags: Tread carefully when it comes to your dialogue tags. If you find yourself having to replace a ton of dialogue tags for stronger verbs, or find yourself using a lot of adverbs, you may need to rework the dialogue itself. While using strong verbs for tags can be great in small sprinklings, your dialogue and your character’s action before/between/after should convey their emotion strongly enough that it doesn’t necessarily require a different tag.
  7. Those-Which-Must-Not-Be-Mentioned… That’s right. Adverbs.
    A lot of writers will cringe and hiss at you if you even utter the word “adverbs.” While it’s true that too many adverbs are a red flag that you should find stronger verbs and descriptions, I’m of the mindset that a few minor adverbs here and there are OK. You can’t seek and destroy every adverb in your story; you’ll end up with choppy passages and forced, awkward writing. If you find yourself scouring a thesaurus, just stick with your adverb. In a lot of instances, it’s extremely apparent when a writer had to look up a word.

Be sure to check out Showing versus Telling: 10 Resources to Help You Show, Not Tell

Take your time with edits and revisions. There’s no need to rush through them. Once you’re ready to work with beta readers and editors, be sure to keep an open mind to their input. You might find that all your betas have the same suggestions on a certain character or scene. Be receptive and respectful of critique, but also be sure to give your betas feedback as well.

What other steps do you take to get your manuscript ready for beta readers and editors? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

Showing versus Telling: 10 Resources to Help You Show, Not Tell

showingvstell

Show, don’t tell. How many times have you heard that? How often do we scour our work for signs of telling to eagerly correct the problem? What exactly does it mean? Well, it’s the difference between:

Delilah felt excited.

and

Delilah’s eyes widened. She bounced on her toes. Her pounding heart thudded hard against her ribs, and her pulse was deafening in her ears as a grin spread across her lips.

I’ve gathered some external resources to help you show instead of tell. Some of these are absolute favorites of mine and I use them frequently as reference. Some also have links to purchase on Amazon.

1. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
I love, love, love this. It’s my go-to guide when I need help conveying a character’s emotion. It includes 75 different emotions your characters might feel. The beauty of it is that humans are complex beings. We might be feeling a whole slew of different emotions at once. Each listed emotion includes what that feeling might escalate to, or what cues might show that your character is trying to suppress that feeling.

2. Emotion Amplifiers by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
This is a freebie for Kindle. It goes along with The Emotion Thesaurus and is exactly as the title suggests. It lists certain conditions that might amplify what your character is feeling, such as pain, exhaustion, dehydration.

3. Writers Helping Writers
This is Angela and Becca’s website. They also have other helpful books for fleshing out your characters, The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. They have a lot of great resources on their site. Definitely check them out!

4. Resources on using strong verbs (The Writer’s Resource)
Strong verbs can really help your writing when trying to show instead of tell. For example, if you find yourself writing “She felt [insert noun/adjective here telling what the feeling is]”, look for stronger ways to show us how she felt. This goes along with using too many adverbs. Instead of “He wearily climbed the stairs”, try “He trudged up three flights of steps.” Strong verbs give the reader a better idea of how your character is feeling.

5. Grammar Girl : Show, Don’t Tell
This one is a quick read and will give you a better idea of telling vs. showing.

6. Scribendi: Ten Tips to Help You Avoid Telling Writing
Another good article on avoiding telling in your writing.

7. Writing Forward on Show, Don’t Tell
Another quick read, but still informative.

8. The Beginning Writer

9. The Itch of Writing: Showing and Telling: the basics
Offers some great examples on the differences between telling and evoking emotion in the reader.

10. Lynette Noni: Show, Don’t Tell!
Great cheat sheet on some common emotions!

Writing Software: 6 Suggestions for the New Novelist

software

If you’re just starting out as a writer, you’re probably hesitant about shelling out money on a fancy writing program. How often am I actually going to use this program? Is it really worth the money? There are probably a ton of parts I’ll have to learn — I just want to write.

At least, those were some of my thoughts before I started checking out various software for writing. I always used Microsoft Word, plus piles of notes and notebooks for all my scribbles and ideas. But believe me, investing in software has been one of the best decisions to improve my writing and organization.

There are way more than a plethora of computer programs out there, enough to make your head spin. So, where do you even begin to look for the right program to fit your needs?

First, you’ll need to evaluate exactly what your needs are as a writer. Are you writing for yourself? To eventually submit to literary agents/publishers? Self-publish? What do you struggle with most when it comes to your stories… Plotting? Characterization? Focusing your attention on writing and tuning out distractions? Overall organization? Pinpointing your needs will help you decide which program to invest in.

For plotting your stories

  • Scapple ($14.99, Windows and Mac)
    This program is great if you only need a program for visalizing all your plot points, character interactions/relationships, etc. It’s like a cork board on your Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 9.24.14 PMcomputer. Double-click to create different bubbles, apply various colors and style options, and drag and drop to connect bubbles.
    Pros: Inexpensive for a decent program, great for anyone who likes visual aids.
    Cons: Not very useful for other needs.
  • OmniOutliner ($99.99, Mac only)
    Another program for plotting. Less freestyle/cork board-ish, moScreen Shot 2016-01-26 at 9.46.15 PMre structured, but lots more room to type out detailed plot points and info.
    Not one I have first-hand experience with, but overall looks like a good program.
    Pros: More room for writing detailed plots, available on all your iOS devices and can sync between them.
    Cons: Only available on Mac, pricey compared to Scapple.
    *Screenshot credit: Mac App Store 

Distraction-free writing

  • iA Writer ($9.99, Mac/iOS and Android)
    A great program to help you tune out all those other focus-consumers, like basically everything on the Internet. No super fancy bells or whistles allow youScreen Shot 2016-01-26 at 10.08.57 PM to focus on the story itself. The image you see here is full-screen view in iA Writer.
    Pros: Great if you’re distracted easily, clean, minimalistic design helps you focus on the text itself, rather than trying to organize everything, good price
    Cons: Not useful for anything else besides text, so you’d have to use other programs to organize any other files, notes, clippings, ideas, etc.
  • OmmWriter ($4.11* and up, Mac, iOS, Windows)
    While basically the same idea as iA Writer in being “distraction-free”, this program mostly lets you focus on just the text. Differences in this are the various Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 10.21.08 PMbackgrounds you can choose from and instrumental music that plays in the program while you write. I tried OmmWriter quite awhile ago, and didn’t like it very much. I found myself too busy with changing the backgrounds and listening to the background music instead of writing. If I’m going to listen to music, I’d rather listen to iTunes.
    *(Image credit: ommwriter.com)
    Pros: *$4.11 is the minimum price you pay, but they ask you to donate more if you so choose. If you can focus on writing instead of changing backgrounds and listening to the music, it’s a good program.
    Cons: If you’re easily distracted, not such a great choice.

The whole-kit-and-caboodle programs

  • Scrivener ($45, Mac and Windows)
    Many writers will agree that this is the mack daddy of writing software. I, myself, am a fangirl for Scrivener. I love it and swear by it. It is your all-in-one program, scrivfrom plotting, character profiles, word processor, notes, ideas… In other words, you name it, Scrivener can handle it. It can even export to a ton of different file types, including mobi/epub files for ebooks. They run specials for NaNoWriMo every November — usually 50% for winners, 20% even if you don’t win. Scrivener is well worth the investment.
    Pros: Keeps everything you need for your novel in one place, even links to webpages for research. There are a ton of nifty features, too many to even begin naming. Excellent price (especially when they offer discounts) for so many features.
    Cons: All the bells and whistles can be overwhelming at first. While there is a great tutorial file that walks you through a lot of the features, it is a bit time consuming. Even after doing the tutorial, there are a lot of features to still discover.
  • Storyist ($59, Mac only)
    I’ve never used this program personally, nor do I know anyone personally who uses it, but my understanding is that it’s very similar to Scrivener. One upsideScreen Shot 2016-01-26 at 10.48.47 PM to this program is that it’s also available on all your iOS devices, meaning you can jump back and forth between your iPad/iPhone and your Mac.
    *(Image credit: storyist.com)
    Pros: All-in-one program, keeps everything you need in one program, available on other iOS devices, which gives you more on-the-go capabilities
    Cons: More expensive than Scrivener. I’m not 100% sure what, if any, discounts they offer during NaNoWriMo. Also only available for Mac/iOS.

There are a zillion other programs out there, too. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide what program will work best for your needs, or which you’ll feel most comfortable using. Some writers like all the features and toys, some like simply using a word processor, some just like good ole pen and paper. The best part? Whatever gets you writing is the best option for you!

Do you have any writing programs you swear by? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!