What a time to be alive! It’s never been easier to produce good writing thanks to automated tools that help clean up the produced content and let your stories shine. I’m going to talk about a few great ones that I’ve begun using this year.
- Scrivener. Much print has been left about the pros and cons of this software. I’ve begun using it last year. Even though I’m not using it to its full potential, the way that it can move scenes and drag/drop notecards make it the go-to tool for people who write with tight outlines. It’s a pretty intimidating piece of software to begin using and not very similar to the boilerplate word-processing we’re used to. I watched a number of YouTube videos prior to using it and then waded in slowly by writing some short fiction with it while referencing some of my favorite videos to make sure I didn’t get lost. I’m glad I did. I still use regular word processers for many things, but for story writing, research, and outlining it is my new preference. Price of admission is also very low. It’s just $40-45 depending on the version (Mac/PC)—that’s cheaper than buying a fresh copy of MS Word. You can get it at this link/amazon.com Or get it directly from the developer (who offers a discount if you completed nanowrimo, https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener/overview
- Grammarly. If you don’t know about Grammarly, you’ve probably been living under a rock and don’t have a television or internet. It’s a contextual grammar and spellchecking tool that helps catch errors—it’s more like an editor than like a spellchecker. While it’s not perfect, it certainly tightens up the writing in a way superior to the red and green squiggles of Word. The great thing is that it’s free for basic functionality, or thirty bucks a month for advanced features. To preserve formatting you have to upload to the website, so an internet connection is required to use the free version. It’s super easy to use and the learning curve is practically nonexistent.
- Hemingway. This is another free editing app (as long as you are using it online) with contextual proofreading. However, it’s not exactly a spell checker. There are so many things to love about it, and using it as a spelling and grammar checker would be a waste. Hemingway gives you a whole spate of information in addition to the standard word-count, character count, number of sentences, etc. It gives you the grade-level for readability and the estimated time it will take to read… although I’d love to see that feature expanded to include an estimate for reading aloud. My favorite feature is the highlighting it does. Hemingway uses five highlighters to mark up your document and label all of your adverbs, uses of passive voice, phrases with simpler alternatives, and sentences which are hard to read and very hard to read. For those writers suffering from over-use of passive voice and adverb dumps it gives you a usage limit to shoot for as a goal so that you don’t bog down the reader. You have to be online to use it unless you purchase the app version, which I did. It’s just $20 and worth every penny to me to have a tool that identifies the sentences that will feel clunky to my reading audience. http://www.hemingwayapp.com/
My writing process now goes something like this: write and spellcheck in Scrivener with at least 2 drafts, double check and edit in Grammarly, revise in Hemingway, then again in Grammarly (because we’ve all thought our revisions were perfect before and left huge errors without another quick check.) Then it’s on to betas, of course.
These are my three top picks for writing software; I know there are a bunch of others out there, too… most of which do similar things. Just be careful not to overdo it and lose your unique voice (I’m thinking of the episode of Friends where Joey wanted to sound smart so he wrote a letter and then used Word’s synonym feature to change every word with unintentional results.)
Do you have any other great writing tools that you would recommend? Share in the comments below! I’d love to hear what’s working for you in your writing process.