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Tool Time Tuesday: ProWritingAid

Tool Time Tuesday

Every other Tuesday, we talk about the different tools available for writers to make life easier (theoretically 😉 ).

Today’s Tool: ProWritingAid

Platform: Browser, Windows, Mac, pretty much everything

Cost: Free web version; Premium version available ($50/yr, price breaks available for multiple years; $175/lifetime; discounts for edu folks & bulk purchasing)

What it does: Wow. When I found this a couple years ago, I was astounded and fell in love all at the same time! While it can’t tell you whether your story is a good story, it can tell you how to improve your actual craft.

This is what Word’s Grammar check aspires to be! I use this on all my work before it goes to a professional editor (or acquisitions editor/agent if I’m submitting). I cannot accurately convey the depth of my love for this little program!

Okay, Venessa, enough praise. Show me!

So you can choose to use the free web version and do a section of your work at a time. If you can’t afford the premium version, this is a perfectly good way to do it. It will take longer, because you’ll be doing a lot of copying and pasting, but you’ll get the full functionality of the program, just a piece at a time.

If you upgrade, you can download the software to your computer (there’s even a 2-week free trial!). But here’s the brilliant part: you can use the software with the program you write in, whether it’s Word, Google Docs, Open Office. I use Scrivener for Windows. Here’s what ProWritingAid looks like when I open my novel, Soul Cavern, in it:

ProWritingAid

Sorry, you don’t get to see the text! Check out FreeFictionFriday later this week, if you want to read it 🙂

As you can see, it shows me all of my writing, in the Scrivener structure, and lets me work on it piece by piece. I use this for every story I write.

Check out all the features across the top. Style, Grammar, Overused words (it’s worth the price for just these three things alone!), Readability, Cliches, Sticky sentences (these are unnecessary words/sentences that slow your reader down), Diction, Repeats, Echoes, and Sentence lengths. The More tab has a dozen other tools like Thesaurus, Pacing, Pronouns, and, of course, more.

This month's #ToolTimeTuesday, featuring @ProWritingAid: It shows me all of my writing, in the Scrivener structure, and lets me work on it piece by piece. I use this for every story I write. Click To Tweet

 

You can also choose, on the Tools option at the menu on the top, what sort of writing you’re doing: academic, creative, business, etc, so that the suggestions are geared toward your particular work.

Photo courtesy of ProWritingAid.

I wouldn’t recommend solely relying on any digital tool for final editing, but I 100% recommend using ProWritingAid before sending any work to an editor. If you’re working with a professional freelance editor (like me!), running your manuscript through ProWritingAid will likely cut down on the cost of your edits, as it can help you make your manuscript much cleaner for your human editor. This will allow her or him more time and effort to focus on the story itself and less on the mechanics of the writing.

Also, a program like this is a great learning tool as well. ProWritingAid not only suggests corrections, but will often explain why the thing needs to be corrected. This is a fantastic way for newer writers to learn.

Where to get it:

Writing Improvement Software

I really do strongly recommend this software. I probably put it as #2 right after Scrivener out of all the Tool Time Tuesdays I’ve done.

Have you tried ProWritingAid? How has it helped with your writing?

Do you have a writing tool that you absolutely can’t live without? Drop a line to me down below and tell me about it!

Let’s keep writing! 🙂
 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.
Also, links in this blog post may be affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something, I will get a small percentage of it, though it does not increase your cost in any way. I appreciate you using my links 🙂

Doing What We Do (Rough Draft Writing – Part Two)

Craft of Writing

Last week, I wrote Part One of this two-parter, so if you missed it, you might want to pop back and have a peek.

I talked about writing character sketches and setting sketches before I even begin writing the beats. And all of this is done before I start working on the actual story.

Once I’ve gotten through the characters and the settings, I’m ready to get started on the beats. I think of the beats as notes to myself about the story. I definitely don’t think of doing it as outlining. It’s more like me telling myself the story. Not as it will eventually be written — a novel or short story — but as if I’m sitting next to myself, literally, telling myself about the story.

The beat listing begins as just a bunch of bullet points. This happens. Then this happens. Then this other thing happens. And I just list things out, as far as I know them, all the way through to the end, if I can. Sometimes, I only know the beats for the first third or half. And that’s okay. I often get the rest as I’m working on the ones I do have, so I have the entire story out in beats before I begin writing for real.

Once I have my bullet points — I’ve usually already divided them into chapters at this point, but not everyone does it this way, of course — I start at the beginning. I take the first bullet point, which might look like this:

  • Jacob awkwardly asks Sophie out

Okay, that’s actually a bullet point from my YA post-apocalyptic novel Hovel Rats, and it’s not the first bullet point, but about halfway in. You get what I mean though.

So now I take that bullet point and expand on it. You know how in writing, people always say, “Show, don’t tell”? In this case, it’s all about the telling. I just write down a few sentences about what is to happen in the scene. I also might make notes to myself on things to remember to try to convey. Here’s the above bullet point as a beat:

Out scavenging, Jacob starts talking about missing dates. Not the asking so much as the anticipation and getting to know someone. He knows that sounds a little lame, but it’s part of the “normal” that he misses.
Sophie thinks about how she hadn’t ever been out on a date before “normal” ended.

After a bit a hemming and hawing, which Sophie doesn’t recognize as Jacob being nervous, he asks if she would like to have dinner with him. Sophie is confused. They have dinner together every night. She finally gets that he’s “asking her out.” Make sure to convey her blushing and her feeling a little dumb for not getting it. Also, her excitement.

They make plans to have dinner on the patio by the roses.

 

That’s it. Simple.

A couple paragraphs, just so I know what’s going on and who’s feeling what. The scene I wrote from that beat was about 1200 words, but only half of it was the actual awkward asking-out part. The rest of it was the “out scavenging” part that is just two words at the beginning of that beat. Generally speaking, a beat will be about 10-20% of the length of the actual scene that will be written from it.

One of my issues with traditional outlining is that it didn’t seem to leave room for creativity. It felt very draconian. In doing the beats, I have more than one opportunity for creativity. I found that when writing the beats themselves, that’s when my plotting muse kicks into gear.

I play with the plot at this level, almost exclusively. This is where I learn exactly where my story is going. It’s much more efficient than learning in the writing phase, because if something doesn’t work, I know much sooner and after much less effort. I’ve only written a couple hundred words versus a couple thousand or more. I can pivot and adapt more easily and quickly.

Once I’ve done my beats, either all of them (preferable) or as far as I have in my head, it’s time to sit down and start writing. I use Scrivener for pretty much everything writing-related (including this blog post!) and Scrivener has a split-screen feature. Word also allows you to have two files open and split the screen, so if you’re still using Word, this is workable for you too.

I usually have the beat on the bottom and my writing space on the top (because I like it more or less eye level). Then, I simply start writing as I would have any other time, but use the beats as guidance. What I’ve found is that I’m much more focused and I can belt out words a lot faster.

If I’m in the zone, in general, I can write about 2000 words an hour. Note, I said in the zone. If I’m not in the zone and if I’m trying to decide on things as I write and I’m trying to think about how whatever I’m writing is going to affect what I’ve already written and what I’ve yet to write, then I have a much lower word count per hour.

Write or Die helps me to keep up with how fast I can write. He’s releasing a WoD 3, but it’s pretty ugly, so I stick with version 2 🙂

Because I’ve written the beats and I’ve worked out, mostly, how everything relates together, I don’t have to think about any of that. I can just focus on creating great description or natural dialogue. I can focus on creative ways of bringing the emotion out of the characters and onto the page.

And I can write faster.

You’ll notice that there’s tons of creativity in this stage, too. Obviously, to create a striking description requires it. To bring the characters to life on the page requires it. So creativity isn’t stifled at all using this method. I’d say it’s just organized differently.

Instead of the creativity being in a great big jumble as I write, instead, I’m carving the plotting aspect out and doing it separately. I’m doing the character and setting descriptions separately. There is still room in the writing for all of these, but the heavy lifting of them is already done. So whatever I still fiddle with in the writing itself is smaller, less pressure.

So that’s my system! Instead of just writing by the seat of my pants or rigidly creating an outline I must adhere to, I mesh the two. I create an environment where I have the guidance of an outline, but the creative openness of writing by the seat of my pants. And this works for me.

Let me know if you decide to try this way; tell me how it works for you!

What’s your process? Do you do a lot of planning or pre-writing? Or are you a write-what-you’re-inspired-to-write sort of person? Drop a comment below!

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Okay, I lied! One quick post…

Writing

I know I said I wasn’t going to post til next week, but I just wanted to take a second to mention NaNoWriMo prep! If you’re going to be participating in National Novel Writing Month this year, come join us at The Writing Tribe for NaNo prep!

We just got started today. We’re talking about figuring out what we’re going to be writing and there will be a bunch of prep exercises in the coming weeks to get us poised to win NaNo in November.

So come join your tribe! 🙂

Tool Time Tuesday: Scrivener

Tool Time Tuesday

Every other Tuesday, we talk about the different tools available for writers to make life easier (theoretically 😉 ).

Today’s Tool: Scrivener

Platform: Windows, Mac, iOS

Cost: $40 (Windows), $45 (Mac), $20 (iOS)

What it does:

Scrivener does it ALL! If you’re in writer circles, you’ve likely heard of Scrivener. It’s an all-in-one writing tool. I like to call it a digital writing notebook. In additional to housing your stories, it also can keep track of your character sketches, your settings, your outline (if you do that sort of thing 😉 ), and pretty much any research or background material you need to store for your writing. And it’s all kept in one place — your project.

Now, Scrivener does have a bit of a learning curve and can seem daunting when you first open it. But there are lots of tutorial videos scattered all over the net, as well as online courses you can take in order to learn more about it. But I think most writers can work out the basics in about thirty minutes. And then you can figure out the other things you want to use in bits and pieces.

Some awesome features:

  • Easy organization of research material — all in one place!
  • Split screen – you can view your research/background material/outline at the same time you’re writing your story
  • Corkboard – for those who are visually inclined and like to move things around; when you move your cards, it rearranges the writing too
  • Outliner – makes it easy to write from an outline
  • Text editor/compiler – you can write your story in whatever font you like with whatever spacing you want. When you print, you “compile” to a separate document for printing, rather than printing directly. This allows you to assign whatever formatting you want to the compiled document. There are even preset compiles for different e-book types!
  • Writing targets & statistics – this is one of my favorite parts! You can easily see how many works/characters you have in any given section or selection of sections. And you can set a target work/character count per section or even per day. Great accountability tool!
  • Full screen – for those of us easily distracted, the full screen mode blocks out everything else, so we can focus strictly on our writing
  • Automatic backups – never lose work again!

There are even more features than listed here! Collections, Scrivenings, Snapshots, etc.

I keep all my writing in Dropbox, so that I can access it anywhere and on any of my machines. I haven’t tried out Scrivener for iOS, since I’m an Android girl, but I’ve been using Scrivener for Windows for several years now and I do all my writing there, from stories to blog posts to class materials.

Where to get it:

Scrivener for Windows

Scrivener for MacOS

Scrivener for iOS

Do you use Scrivener? How do you like it?

If you don’t, are you planning to give it a try? Let me know in the comments!