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.

Swiping Inspiration

graphic from open clipart.org by qubodup

 

Writing is theft.   Confession time: there are no characters, situations, or concepts in my writing I haven’t lifted from a real world experience.  While anything is fair game for a story, I’m most focused on having “real characters” that a reader can relate to and believe are real while I make a world full of the fantastic these normal people have to deal with.  Because I like character studies, my most stolen tidbits comes from the surrounding people. 

When I talk to you with that over eager, boisterous barrage of questions, I am interested in you, but I’m also pilfering all your experiences and responses to mash up later when I sit down to write.  Do not leave me alone in a room because I rifle through every drawer.  There’s no shame in my cat killing curiosity and there’s no end to it.  Tell me to back off anytime now.  I know my intensity is off-putting, and I try to keep a lid on it.  If we ever meet, I hope you’d never suspect how hungry I am to hear your life story.  How much I want to dig into an abstract hobby of yours.  I want facts I can check to see if you’re the honest sort, but either truth or lies, I’ll incorporate that study to some Frankenstein-esque mash up of you and four other people I met this week.  It’s alive, and the only part I can claim rights to is how I fit the Tetris blocks together.   

What in your day-to-day life do you steal the most inspiration from?  Are your gems personal experiences and past events?  Or do you explore expansive new places, plumbing each place for its local traditions, retooling them to your desires?  Do current or past politics spur you into creative world building?  Are you seeking to recapture old myths and fairytales in an unique way?  Or maybe you dream of technological break through in the present and think of what they’d mean in the future (or what they would mean if delivered to the past)?  There’s so much information offered, rife for a writer to pluck up and entwine into a new story.  How is a creative to choose?  Tell me what you hunt for, what parts of your story are the “most real” and how do you obscure the origins of those tidbits?

Why Do You Write?

image from open clipart.org by Firkin

 

It’s a simple question, but one I’ve found a lot of writers have never asked themselves.

I write because I have stories and I want to tell them.  Compulsion pulls me through where a reasonable person may surrender.  There are days where I think “even if no one ever sees this, I need to complete it.”  That’s an internal part of writing, when an idea gets too big to hold in my head and needs to come out to the page.   There are stories of mine I’ll never seek to publish.  I “had” to write them, but that doesn’t mean they are good or meant for public consumption.  Two, even though they are fiction, just mean personal things I don’t want to share.  Others are artistic dabbles that I either think aren’t good or may be acceptable but not noteworthy enough to go through the work trying to publish.

I write because I enjoy reading but it’s rare I find an engaging story.  Arrogance at it’s finest, to think I can be more unique and captivating that those already published.  What I want is so niche it’s probably not worth creating.  If I’m looking for a gritty urban fantasy with relatable characters, attainable goals, and both good and negative parts of magic and myth running the world, there must be other people looking for that.  Urban fantasy readers can’t all be there for the romance and laughs.  Some of them must be like me looking for the substance.  American Gods exists and was a huge hit.  There are so many other directions a work like that could go that I want to see.

I write as a way for reaching out to others.  As someone shy, nervous, and concerned about other’s feelings and perspectives, there is no better way to broach difficult topics than through fiction.   It’s a lot harder to feel attacked by an idea expressed in an imaginary world than an idea that will affect people now.  Stories create space for people to say “that’s an interesting idea, could it work here?” or “I wonder if issue X is relevant now and what that looks like?”

I write because it distracts me when my anxiety is high.  To a lesser extent: I write when I’m depressed because I need something beautiful or I write when the world spins out of control because writing is all in my hands.  Most writers I know have an element of this.  They are pensive, depressed, anxious, socially awkward and writing mitigates that for them.

I write because it’s one of the few skills I have that makes me proud and leaves me feeling accomplished.  I write because I have something to say and I’m always exploring new ways to express my points.

And now you, the reader, know me better.  Tell me something about yourself.  Are you a writer?  What do you write?  If it’s fiction in nature, why write it?  If you’re a reader, what do you read and why read it?

Progress: What Markers Indicate Success?

image from open clipart.org by Firkin

July is one of the Camp NanoWrimo months and it’s made me reflective.  NanoWrimo is all about encouraging a person to write because a story-teller can’t do anything with an idea in their head.  They need to express their concept outside of their mind and writing is one format.

I, like Nano,  judge my success by word count.  A thousand words an hour is the bare minimum required to claim success.  If the other writers achieve a hundred or two hundred words in a blitz round robin, I want to double it.  Out pace them with verbiage, the quality of the story spun be damned.  Do all the articles and adverbs just make my writing clunky?  Do I spend too much time hammering a point?  All of it takes a back seat to the count of words I’ve crammed together.

I’m very frustrated working on my novel right now because the words are taking so long to come out.  I’ve “completed” a new third chapter.  It’s about 2,500 words and took me five hours to write.  That’s so slow for me, I never got the victory high completing story elements offers me.

I’d told a fellow writer it would take me two weeks of dedicated work to rearrange the novel.  I made those claims based off of the word count I predicted I’d add.  It’s been longer than two weeks and I’m not that far in.  I’m still asking myself questions over the new third chapter, that keep me from moving cutting the rest of my chapters open and finishing them (though I will attack the fourth chapter today no matter what).

Even Nano, knows writing is the first step to crafting a story.  November is their traditional writing month (outside of camp), but January/February focuses on the editing and publishing process.

What, besides the story idea itself, drives you to write and how do you measure your success?  How do you push through editing or slow word counts ticks?  I’m straining to think of other elements I can track that might show success.  Is there a search for emotional depth or for a “realistic” action?  Does a writer need to fall in love with their own writing and style, seeking achievement through reveling in the quality of their story development?

Opening the floor to the other writers: if word count isn’t your measure what keeps you sane in the writing process?  How do you leash your agitation at the slow pace of progress?

And anyone working through a Nano Camp run, happy typing!

Looking for a better way to count those words or encourage the words to keep coming?  Try our Bells and Whistles: Fancy Tools to Encourage Writing

Stuff I love About Writer’s Group: Pitch Sessions

No surprise to anyone who knows me, but I love to pitch ideas.  Big details, small details, little repetitive themes no one will ever notice, there’s no thought big or small that I don’t want to throw a million ideas at.  I have more ideas than I have time to write.  Half these ideas are concepts I’d prefer someone else develops.  As much as I love to write, reading is my preference.  If I saw more engaging imagination in print, I’d write a lot less.

 

I go to Writers’ Group foremost as a chance to deliver a bouquet of premises at other writers.  There’s plenty else to enjoy and appreciate at our weekly meetings, but each week I’m most interested in hearing what others are working on and what I can cook up to help increase their narrative.

 

There’s always the worry.  One day, I’ll ask too many questions, throw out too many ideas, or fixate on an idea I like but the writer who owns the story does not.  Got to keep looking for those little tells, but thankfully (and please correct me loudly if this is wrong), it doesn’t seem like my barrage has annoyed anyone yet.

 

What’s best about the pitch is there’s no wrong concept.  Nothing too strange, just a constant flow of ideas until we hit one we like.  Free thought association that slowly develops a narrative.  Sitting in a noisy coffee shop refining an engaging story to its best form.  What isn’t rewarding about that?