Tag Archives: writing tools

Top 5 Tools of the Trade

2013 RWA conference picPJ Sharon here. I’ve been taking an online course this month to learn how to use Scrivener. For those of you who don’t know what Scrivener is, it’s a software program developed specifically for writing. Scrivener puts everything you need for structuring, writing and editing long documents at your fingertips. It’s a way to organize your work into chapters, scenes, or sections so that it’s easy to move and manipulate them within your document. There’s even a place to keep all your research together in one easy to find folder. Think of it as one of those cool binders you loved to shop for when you were in high school…or maybe that was just me.scriv pic

Scrivener is available for Windows or Mac users and there are tons of tutorial videos out there. So why am I taking a course? Because I’m one of those non-tech-savvy individuals who needs my hand held whenever I’m faced with learning anything new on the computer. I’m convinced that this is why I married an engineer (aside from his being a sweetheart, a hottie, and a heck of a good kisser).

Scrivener is one of those writing tools that I can see has amazing potential to streamline my writing process. Once I’ve completed my manuscript, the program compiles it all into a professionally formatted document and even allows me to produce a .mobi file and an .epub file for upload to Amazon and B&N, respectively. I’m not there yet, but I’m pretty sure it will generate the appropriate file format for I-Books and Kobo as well. This would save money on hiring a formatter to do this for me, and I would continue to have complete control over making changes as needed.

If I were one of those folks who loves new gadgets, gets excited about the prospect of Windows 10, or one who can’t wait to buy the latest greatest I-Phone, I’d be stoked about learning Scrivener. Alas, I am not one of those people. Although I pride myself on being an intelligent person with a “can do” attitude most days, my brain does not appear to be wired for organization of files or the minutia of the not-so-intuitive Scrivener program. I’m more the absent-minded professor type who lives with piles of notebooks and file drawers full of things I’ll probably never need but can’t get rid of. Frankly, I’d rather be writing my stories than learning ANOTHER new computer program.

I’m hoping to feel differently after the course is complete and will report back as to its usefulness, or more to the point, my ability to adapt to it.

There are however, other tools of the trade that I have found exceedingly helpful. Here’s my top 5 list!

Authorgraph: Nothing to learn and everything to gain! Signing up for Authorgraph is free and easy. It allows me to digitally “autograph” my ebooks for readers who request it, and it sends me weekly updates regarding my books’ Amazon rankings. It also notifies me of new reviews. Great tool! http://www.authorgraph.com/

Canva: I’m new to Canva and will be attending a webinar to learn more about how to use all its features, but it appears to be user friendly and intuitive. It allows me to make my own graphic designs, has templates for Facebook and website headers, and offers a ton of royalty free photos to use for the designs. It’s perfect for creating graphics for Pinterest boards, blog tours, or events. I’m looking forward to letting my creative mind explore this fun new resource. https://www.canva.com/about

Drop Box: This is a “cloud based’ storage area for all of your files, photos, and documents. The free version offers enough memory for most of us to never run out of room (unless you’re storing tons of photos or videos which take lots of space). You can buy more storage space if needed, but the standard free 2 GB are plenty for my files. Drop box allows you to store, share, and work together on projects with others and syncs up to all of your devices so your info is always available. I use this as my back up to One Drive (which is also cloud-based storage). I also periodically back up my computer onto an external drive from Seagate.             https://www.dropbox.com

Excel: Not long ago, I recall saying the only thing I knew about spread sheets was how they fit onto a mattress. After a few quick tutorials with techno-hubby, I was able to reap the benefits of this most excel-lent tool. I use it for my list of websites and passwords, keep track of bloggers, reviewers, and promo sites, and compile my quarterly/yearly sales reports (when I get around to them), all done with excel spread sheets. I know only the basics of how to use it, but it seems to be doing the job for me just fine. Excel is available through Microsoft Office.

Hoot Suite: This social media powerhouse allows me to schedule tweets ahead of time. The basic program is free and user friendly. Again, I’m certain I’m only using the most basic features, but it does what I need it to. When I have a promotion going on, I can set up my tweets and schedule them to release throughout the day without having to be on Twitter all day long. It also allows me to group certain individuals, much the same way Twitter does. I can have bloggers and reviewers in one group, writers and publishers in another, and readers in yet another, so that I can target tweets to a specific audience. Very handy indeed! And don’t you just love their logo? (Casey Wyatt? I’m talking to you!)hoot suite image                  https://hootsuite.com/

So these are a few of my favorite tools of the trade. Have you used any of these? Love them or hate them? Any I’ve missed that you’d like to share?   

Awesomeness of Autocrit

PJ Sharon here on this fine Tuesday. I hope you are all well and writing up a storm. As I’m in the throes of edits and rewrites, I thought I would share an awesome new tool I found. I’ve been hearing about Autocrit for some time, but foolishly I chose to ignore the many recommendations from other writers about its virtues. Boy, have I been missing out!

Autocrit is an on-line service that provides assessment of your writing by way of software that generates a report outlining such helpful observations as overused words, sentence variation, clichés and redundancies, repeated words and phrases, pacing, dialogue, and more. Basically, all the things that a copy editor does, Autocrit does first, and quite thoroughly I might add.

If you go to their website http://www.autocrit.com, you can submit a four hundred word document (about a page or two) of your work in progress (WIP) for free, and in seconds, they will generate a report, not only telling you what overused words that appear in that section, but how many you should eliminate to meet acceptable standards. Your submission appears on the page with the offending overused words highlighted in red. You can even get a combination report showing overused words in red, repeated phrases in blue, and repeated words in green with underline.

You can try out the service for free, but if you want to use it on a regular basis, you can sign up for various levels of use. The $47/year package allows you to submit up to 1,000 words per day. This might be enough for an unpublished writer who is working at a slow and steady pace who wants access to editing help for small projects, flash fiction, or blogging. The Platinum package costs $77/year and allows you to submit up to 8,000 words/day. For serious writers who need the flexibility of having large sections edited and who want to work off-line, they offer the Professional package for $117/year. They allow for up to 100,000 words with unlimited submissions. I chose this package since I’m planning for multiple full length manuscripts and short stories over the next year. This will save me (and my editors) a lot of work on the back end. No more twenty pages of revisions to do before your work is publish ready. A worthy investment in my opinion.

The best part for me is that it showed me patterns I tend to follow and the common words and phrases that I repeat without being aware. Over time, I can see this being a great learning tool that will make me a much better writer. I hope to use it to make my job and my editor’s job that much easier, and to produce the cleanest copy possible.

Not that this word counting program could ever replace the watchful eye of a good editor, but there is no way human beings are going to be able to painstakingly weed through 70,000 words and tell me that I’ve used the words have and that twenty times each in chapter one and that I need to remove about thirteen of them. They might catch some of these infractions, but they won’t catch them all. Unless of course, they use Autocrit.

Have you discovered any on-line writing tools or software that has made your job easier? I’d love for you to share them with our readers.