Bells and Whistles: Fancy Grammar Editors for Writers

from openclipart.org by j4p4n

 


As I shared recently on my personal blog, grammar is the bane of my existence.  I’m so excited to tell the story or express my idea, that I never push pause and wonder if I’m structuring well. Then, I have comb through everything looking for missing letters, forgotten articles, passive voice, adverbs, missing commas, and the list goes on.

This is NOT a post about the weakest element of my writing (though my rambling could transform it to that in an instant).  Instead, I would like to present writers with some tools to combat the grammar demon.  After all Microsoft Word and Open Office’s tools, don’t catch most mistakes writers fear.  

ProWritingAid: Is hands down my favorite editing tool.  I use the “style” and “grammar/spelling” report the most and it helps me find all my major pitfalls.  There are over 20 reports a writer can comb through.  It allows me to hunt down overused words, pacing problems, and repetitive sentence structure.  When I’m “into” my story, I can spend days pouring through the reporting procedures making every element perfect.  And I walk away with the sense I improved my writing

Beyond the different reports, there are different evaluations for different writing.  I set my editor to ‘Creative’ on default, but you may prefer, “business”, “casual”, “web” or one of the other seven styles.

I use ProWritingAid in the web editor mode, but it has add ons that connect it to Mac, Scrivener, Word, and more.  I’ve been working with the software for a little over the year and there are major quality of life improvements with this software.  For example it doesn’t get rid of my bold, italic, or underlined text anymore when I copy and paste from one document t to another.  

ProWritingAid allows you to use their editor for 500 words or fewer for free.  To use the editor on longer works you must purchase.  They have many pricing options and it’s affordable (less so than when I bought in but still WORTH IT).  

Grammarly: This was the hottest grammar software on the market three years ago when I first poked around in the blogging world.  I was convinced this thing would 100% make all the right corrections, and I was disappointed.  A fellow writers’ group member, Ashley Saunders, (who is an expert on all syntax and structure) pointed out how much the software missed in my writing.  She complained my “edited” draft still read like a rough draft.

Because I was so disappointed with the free services of Grammarly, I never investigated if the paid version provided better corrections.  The pricing is more reasonable now than it was then.  It may be worth consideration.  Still, ProWritingAid offers more evaluation tools.  For a writer looking to make their work the best and not just grammatically sound, ProWritingAid exceeds Grammarly.

Hemingway App: An excellent free web app that offers writers insight into readability, adverbs, and passive voice.  I used to run everything through here.  Since I’ve worked with ProWritingAid a year, I’m convinced the software finds everything Hemmingway App does and makes more helpful suggestions on how to correct issues I’ve encountered.  Still, this a wonderful free app and perfect for an aspiring writer not ready to invest any money in a new editor.

Word Counter:  I haven’t played a lot with this online tool, but it’s an interesting cross between Grammarly, Hemmingway App and a word production app.  Their evaluations look interesting and the service is free.  They send me emails about twice a week and the topics are interesting.

Do you have a grammar editor of preference?  Am I missing the BEST one?  Have I over hyped one editor while downplaying another?  Talk to me, tell me more about the tools you use to make your writing everything it can be.

looking for more Writing tools Check out the First in the “Bells and Whistles”
series: applications that encourage writing.  Or check out “What’s In a Name?”  for name generating tools.

What’s in a Name?-A name I stole from another Author’s Blog!

image from open clipart.org provided by Astro

 

Rick Polad shared What’s in a Name?  It inspired me to create my version.  And since we both admit we’re crap at creating names (well he struggles, I admit I’m crap at it), I figured I’d steal his title to keep with the theme…because I don’t want to waste time creating another title not because I couldn’t.  


It’s content that matters right?  Except if your title or name sucks, no one will ever get past it and into all the good stuff, which can leave writers stuck.  Even people good with names, can feel stymied by the pressure applied to first impressions.  Bland titles that don’t search well in Google or Amazon.

I have a few thoughts.  First don’t use character names that start with the same letter in a single story. I know Polad speaks about using Rose and Rosie as two different character names in the same work.  I’m thrilled it worked out for him.  As someone with dyslexia it wouldn’t work out for me as either an author or a reader.  Those two names read the same on a casual glance.  Figuring out the characters are separate and keeping them separate would slow my reading down to a snail’s pace.  I might need to make notes.  So don’t make your characters’ names so similar please.  


 I go one further and try never to use names that start with the same letter.  People skim, they don’t read anymore.  I don’t want to confuse anyone kind enough to read my work with names that tangle different characters together into one person.


I also suggest using one name for a character.  I’ve read a lot of books where halfway through characters develop nicknames that are either shorten versions of their full name (i.e. the author tired of writing the full thing out) or the character develops a random pet names.  It’s annoying to keep track a bunch of different names.  Use one name even if it’s not the real name have everyone call him Snake or whatever.  
There is ONE series of books where the author used nicknames to her advantage.  In it she has the main character name those around her after their predominate traits.  It works because it helps us get to know her main character and because the main character’s insistency on these nicknames ends up forcing other characters to adopt them.  The nickname that uses the character’s defining trait becomes how everyone addresses the guy formerly known as Bob.  


I’d like to tell you not to make the name ridiculous, but I use outrageous names all the time.  What I will say is that it’s a balancing act to make names unusual and other names more standard.  Consider when a name might be too on the nose or when one person has a unique name in a sea of bland.

And Now Helpful Resources:
 First is Behind the Name If you’ve got a theme, this site will fill your queue with potential names.  You can search through meanings, country origins, and genders when hunting for names.  All of this can be a sly nod to a reader or something meant only to tickle the author.
My second favorite site is the Fake Name Generator.  Ashley, in writers’ group, gave me this site and now I’m sharing the love.  Identity genorator offers “believable” if you are looking for that living in the real world vibe.  Fill in the specifics you have and let the site give you the rest.  It’s an interesting creators’ tool.  

*Edit 11/7/18 I just found Reedsy has a interesting detailed name generator that offers names for Villains, heroes, mentors, and side kicks.  Or names specific to fantasy races, or names bases off of certain languages.  I still prefer Behind the Name, but Reedsy’s resource has too much possibility to exclude.*

Next I recommend a writers’ group or series of peers.  Ashley gave me a name for one of my characters and she let me know another’s name isn’t “too on the nose”.  Having outside feedback is key to getting into a potential readers’ mindset.  


Last, when all else fails, I bang the keys of my computer and see what rises from the gibberish.  I like grabbing scifi names this way.  
Talk to me.  Do you have trouble creating names for people and places?  Do you have tips, tricks, or favorite sites to help?  Any other thoughts on what not to do when naming a place or person?

April Submission Roundup

April 15th 

 

The Finger– Either 2 flash at 5oo or 2 flash at 2,500 or 1 flash at 5,000 “take us someplace we haven’t been before”

 

Third Flatiron-Up to 3,000 words Galileo’s Theme Park–   Space opera, SF, physics. The great Italian scientist is famous for standing up for science in the face of the Inquisition, doing his best work while under house arrest. He also brought us our first views of Jupiter’s moons by combining a convex lens with a concave one to invent a high quality telescope. We invite you to take us on a journey to the lands beyond Earth revealed to us by Galileo and other space scientists. Suggested reading: “The Old Astronomer” by Sarah Williams”  pays $.06 word

 

Visions– Up to 5,000 words “The first issue will centre on the concept of home in the broadest sense, from the physical structure to the social construct. For instance, we hope the stories will revisit what the notion of home is – a house, a planet, a device? – and what it means to feel at home or homesick. What do we mean by home? How does the concept of home adapts as the world around us changes at a radical pace?” $.06 a word

 

Future Visions-2,000-7,000 words “The Future Visions Anthologies is a science fiction anthology series, aiming to deliver excellent and diverse short story collections on a quarterly basis. In the tradition of great television anthology series such as The Twilight Zone, and Black Mirror, the Future Visions Anthologies will broadly explore all genres and traditions of science fiction and speculative fiction, seeking in each story to explore deeply themes that are relevant to a modern audience

 

Circlet-2,500-8,500 words “Here’s your chance to talk about romance for the characters uninterested in sex. Give me your space pilots in serious relationships with their sentient ships. Think about how an incubus would patiently court a demi-sexual. Maybe you have a regency fantasy where only a virgin can wield the talisman, and thank goodness we’ve got an adult countess who can step up.” $25 for eprint and another $25 if print published

 

Iridium Magazine– ANYTHING with queer non conforming characters up to 5,000 words

 

Electric Spec– “We consider any story between 250 and 7000 words with speculative fiction elements. We prefer science fiction, fantasy, and the macabre, but we’re willing to push the limits of traditional forms of these genres.” $20 flat rate

 

April 16th 

 

Fantasia Divinity- 500-10,500 words. “Spring is a time for growth and rebirth. Beauty is everywhere as the world awakens and comes back to life. We are looking for stories that capture the essence of this beautiful time. What makes the flowers bloom? Why does love permeate the air? Be it nymphs, fairies, gods or goddesses, or even something far more sinister, we want to know. “

 

April 20th 

 

Dead Man Tome– “Genre and theme: Horror, Dark fiction, bizarro framed around conspiracies whether it be UFOs, JFK, 9/11, or Las Vegas. All conspiracies are fair game. Have fun.”

 

April 28th 

 

Unverving– “Haunted are These Houses is an anthology of Gothic fiction and poetry due out in September 2018, edited by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi and Eddie Generous.” 400-6,000 words firm pays $.01 a word

 

April 30th 

 

Hellbound Book Publishing-5K-15K words “Shlock Horror An anthology of short stories based upon/inspired by and in loving homage to all of those great gorefest movies and books of the 1980’s (doesn’t need to be set in that era!), the golden age when horror well and truly came kicking, screaming and spraying blood, gore & body parts out from the shadows...”

 

Cohesion Press– 2,000-10,000 words military scifi horror

 

The Horror Zine– “GUIDELINES: Ghosts / haunted houses / haunted graveyards / general hauntings / spirits. Must be really scary. Must be original (not a reprint) between 2K and 4K words.”

 

COLP– 1000-5000 words adresses “passage of time”

 

The Geeky Press– “This collection isn’t meant to advocate a position. We aren’t looking for manifestos. We aren’t looking for academic papers. Instead, we want well-told stories, personal narratives, essays, and reflections in fiction, scriptwriting, and poetry from people who come from diverse backgrounds and want to share their American story

 

May 1st

 

Fiends in the Furrows–  5,000-10,000 words “Folk Horror has emerged from the shadows of the late 1960s and early 1970s into a haunting subgenre of horror, fusing atmospheric and horrifying elements of cults, pagan sex, and human sacrifice. In the world of Folk Horror, the laws of God and Man are stripped away by secretive, provincial, surreal, and occult ritualism that subverts the established order in favor of a monstrous, all-consuming, elemental force of ancient evil.

 

Apex Magazine– 1,500-5,000 words pays $.06 a word “This summer, award-winning author and editor Sheree Renée Thomas (“Aunt Dissy’s Policy Dream Book,” Apex Magazine, Volume 95 April 2017 and Volume 101 October 2017, Sleeping Under the Tree of Life, Shotgun Lullabies, and the Dark Matter anthologies) will guest edit a special Zodiac-themed issue. Sheree seeks short stories that explore the heavenly cosmos and unveil mysteries, tales that reimagine Zodiacal archetypes and/or throw them on their heads.”

 

Midnight Hour Media– 1,500-8,000 words “We are looking for horror, dark sci-fi, dark speculative fiction, neo-noire, and cyberpunk themes.  Please read the general submissions for more details.

 

Midnight Hour Media– 1,000-10,000 words “We are looking for holiday related horror, dark sci-fi, dark speculative fiction, neo-noire, and cyberpunk stories.  We like stories with Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza themes.   Alternatively, they can simply take place during the holidays (like how Die Hard isn’t really about Christmas) or even just involve wintery or snowy settings.  Please read the general submissions for more details.”

 

 

Author’s Blogs and Websites

This isn’t really an exhaustive list. I’ll dig up some more and add them later or post in a separate post. Most of these authors I’m friends with or follow and Facebook and they cross post or link their blog articles to their Facebook pages. I really need to find more blogs about writing itself – the posts in these vary between promotion, cross-promotion, reviews (not just of books), and some politics (but I’ve omitted the ones who are mostly political).

Adam Troy-Castro is a novelist and short story writers who writes most SF and horror. He also writes book review columns. He has a huge Facebook following because he’s witty, opinionated, and likes to engage people in discussions. In fact, he posts occasionally to remind people who’ve followed him for other reasons that he is a professional writer. There are a lot of good, in-depth movie reviews here.

Steven Barnes is a writer I’ve been reading a long time, starting with his collaborations with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle in the 1980’s. He teaches Lifewriting seminars and writes a lot about life coaching, Afrofuturism, and martial arts.

John Scalzi is a hugely successful SF writer. He isn’t very active on Facebook, but is all over Twitter. His blog, Whatever, is extremely popular and often controversial. One of the cool things he does is to use his large audience to let others promote their books (look for the posts titled The Big Idea:)

Ari Marmell‘s blog, Mouseferatu, is mainly used to keep his readers up-to-date with what he’s working on. Ari has written for RPG games and has quite a few novels as well, including one of the funniest fantasy novels I’ve ever read, The Goblin Corps, and an urban fantasy series set in the 1930’s about a Fae detective named Mick Oberon. He has a Patreon which gives his supporters free stories, beta reads of chapters as they’re completed, and a few other perks.

Stephanie Osborne is a local Huntsville writer who is retired from NASA. Several of her books are small press published, including her latest series, the Displaced Detective, which are about Sherlock Holmes transported to the modern day United States. She’s also collaborated on several books with Baen authors, including Travis Taylor, another Huntsville native (and star of the show, Rocket City Rednecks).

As far as what I read online about the process of writing, I’d say it’s most often Reddit’s r/Writing or some of the other subreddits about fantasy and SF writing, reviewing, etc. Maybe that should be another blog post to go over the various writing subreddits.

BONUS:

John Picacio is a cool artist and an acquaintance of mine from a few conventions. I like his art (I have two framed prints of his at home and several of his Loteria series cards) and he’s a cool guy. I used his Loteria painting La Sirena as a partial inspiration for “The Rusalka’s Embrace” story I wrote recently.