Bells and Whistles: Fancy Tools to Encourage Writing

 Image from open clipart.org by Lyo

 

Looking at the path from spoken story, to recorded story, to printing press, and now to online and print formats, I can see that technology historically is huge for the aspiring writer.  It seems that as technology and communication improve, the different ways it can help writers also exponentially increases.  I’m awed and overwhelmed with the different tools at our disposal.  To help sort the varying tools, I’m creating a series that explores different services mean to help an aspiring writer.  This week we have tools meant to increase daily word count or to encourage a daily writing practice.  

750 Words is my favorite of these sites.  The purpose is to write 750 words or three pages every day.  Once you’ve created an account, it will provide a space to enter text and you just type.  When complete, send in your work and 750 will analyze the writing to see whether you were happy or relaxed based on keywords.  The site will break down when you paused and when you were in a hot streak. For those who like to compete, you get points and a score board if you keep to the daily 750 word assignment.  Best of all, all your writing is private.  First thirty days are free and it’s only $5/mo afterward.  

Write or Die is an software that puts pressure on the writer to produce text in a set amount of time or…consequences.  The most disturbing thing the software does: it deletes words if you pause for more than a few seconds.  Write or Die will either help you up your word count or obliterate every letter on the page. It costs $20 and I’ve often toyed with whether it might be worth the price tag to place my feet to the iron.  I’m afraid I don’t have the stomach for the software.

Word Counter does a lot more than count your words!  If you create a free account, you can create goals to work towards and the site will track progress for you.  The site is linked to Grammarly, so spelling and grammar can be altered through them. Beyond that, Word Counter offers stats similar to those available on Hemingway App.  It provides a reading level, how long it would take to read or speak, and it also offers a “word density” that may suggest whether you need to crack open a thesaurus.  For strict editing, I prefer ProWritingAid, but if I was looking for a hybrid motivational tool and editor, Word Count seems like a capable option.  It’s free to use.

Rescue Time, the wonderful Christopher Palmer mentioned this site to me, and I think it’s great for the aspiring writer.  The light version lets you set goals and tracks how much time you spend on the web and where.  It let’s you know how much time in front of the screen you’re wasting not writing!

What do you think?  Do you use any of these softwares?  Do you know of any other sites or apps that encourage word count or daily writing? What do you use to track your writing metrics?

 

The Rules of the Game

image from open clipart.org by nicubunu

 

I am the self-appointed editor of our group round robins.  Anyone who’s read our work knows I am LEAST qualified of the four of us.  ProWritingAid is the great equalizer, or at least I have to tell myself it is.

As the editor I have self-imposed rules.

 

1. Don’t change the core of other’s sections.  Whatever they wrote is what they intended and I have to work with that, not hack and slash around to change inherent meaning.  Too much change makes it “my story” instead of “our story” which runs contrary to the round robin’s goals.

 

 2. Seamless flow from one writer to the other is the goal, but I can’t change all the phrasing to be “Jessica” (or anyone else’s) style to achieve this.  It’s not right to erase someone else’s voice on a joint work to showcase another’s.

 

This worked well in our first round robin.  I used ProWritingAid first to correct grammar, style, to catch and rework repetitive phrasing, and to delete adverbs.  The major change I made was plot continuity driven.  One writer misread another’s part of the story.  Where Anges finds a dead body that writer interpreted it as Anges being the dead body.  I had to change content.  I adjusted three lines.

 

Fast forward to our second round robin project.  We used Reedsy to find a prompt.  The gist was: “Your grandmother makes pancakes for you every morning.  Your grandmother dies, but there are still pancakes the next morning.

 

This prompt was a different challenge from the last.   The first story blooms from three words/themes.  Using a specific scenario, encouraged more partnership instead of competition to “take over” the story.  This second round robin was smoother and required a lot less finessing to make it seem like one person had written the work.

 

If reworking it was simple why isn’t it posted here?

 

The “problem”: I hate my part of the story.  Not all.  I’m happy with the first three almost four paragraphs, but it goes downhill fast.  My ambitions to churn the most words and be the first to “finish” a round robin in fifteen minutes left me with a rambling sticky mess.  I do not want to publish such a poor expression of my writing.  Everything I think is weakest in my form is on display.

 

What might be worse, my closing section only drives towards a handful of endings.  I broadcasted the only natural conclusion, and that’s driving me to play with the less obvious choices to thumb my nose at myself (because I hate authority so much I’ll rebel against myself when I become the authority and isn’t that an unattractive personality quirk).

 

Help!  Do I publish and unfinished story as it stands?  Do I scrap this work as hopeless?  Do I make my changes because if I cut the last two paragraphs I could write three kinds of separate endings on my own?  Are more drastic changes to my section a benefit I gain as the person completing the editing work?  Do I have to keep everything I wrote in the spirit of the exercise and endure the cringe?  Tell me what’s a “professional” writer/editor to do in this situation with my minor conflict of interest.

All About Writers’ Group Round Robin

image from openclipart.org by oksmith

 

What is it? 

The Blitz Round Robin is a work we create in our meeting.  We pick a random theme, choose a member to start us off, and they have to write for fifteen minutes.  After time is up, the next member gets a chance to read the work and then they have fifteen minutes to write.  We do this until all of us have a chance to write.

Why?  

There’s a lot of reasons to do this exercise.  For our group the primary reason is to encourage speed of production.  Generally, we are a group that spends too much time thinking or editing and not enough time pounding on computer keys.  But there are other reasons to participate

  1. It might jumpstart some creative juices
  2. The process offers unique challenges each of us struggles with in our personal writing and sometimes we try to trip the following writer up
  3. It provides writers a chance to collaborate and work together
  4. The Round Robin gives us a chance to complete something small while we toil with larger works
  5. The activity forces forward movement where all of us sometimes linger our own projects to languish in interia
  6. Since we’ve decided to publish the final products to our blog, these activities give us a chance for publication and perhaps create an audience for our personal style.

Hear From the Group:

The round robin is a great opportunity for me to develop speed in my writing.  The group challenges everyone to write the other in a corner, to call back to an early passage or develop and introduce new character on the fly.  I believe we all hone spontaneity and versatility every time we slam on the keys.”- Zach Stanfield.

For me, the round robin is all about collaborative writing and melding four distinct styles into a coherent story.  I enjoy seeing all my fellows’ contributions and moving the story forward with my personal flare.  The best part comes after the exercise, when we edit.  It’s inspiring to see a work created to try and make each of us fumble transform into a story in which I can’t tell where one writer’s words ended and another’s began.” -Jessica Donegan

The round robin provides me with an opportunity to practice on thinking on my feet when it comes to having an idea and throwing it on the page. A lot of times I have an awesome idea that I start but falter two paragraphs in. The round robin also creates a accountability to get something down. Plus, I love coming in where someone left off and going crazy with the story. Painting someone in a corner can be fun as well.” – Patrick O’Kelley

Where to Go From Here: 

We will publish our first group round robin.  Since the work was not completed during the exercise, we each decided to add our own alternate ending.  I, personally, am beyond thrilled to post the work and hope all our readers are able to enjoy some quick, fun stories!

Want to Read our First Round Robin?  Check our Murder Love and Romance for our beginning with Christopher M. Palmer’s ending, Patrick Jospeph O’Kelly’s ending, and Jessica Donegan’s ending all available.