Category Archives: Tools

Editing Software Tools For Writers

Editing For WritersThere are many tools to help people with writing such as word processors, apps, pen and paper and more. Never has it been easier to record the written word into a manuscript. However, what do you do with your draft once it is complete? Until recently, you paid a high price for an editor to go over it for grammar, spelling, and content errors. Today, there are software tools to help bring down the cost of hiring an editor. I use some of these tools myself, going over my manuscript in layers, each program helping me locate certain issues that I want to address before I pack it up and send it to my human editor. By doing so, I save money since the final corrections that the editor makes are minimal.

All of the programs I review below have not contacted me to review them. I selected them because they are ones that I know about and use myself.

Hemingway
Price: $6.99

This is my new favorite editing software program. I use it on all my stories for editing after I’ve run them through Word’s spelling and grammar check. Hemingway is designed to help you write more like the famous author. Hemingway was known for writing short, concise sentences that got to the heart of the meaning like a razor. To use Hemingway the program, you either open your Word file in the program or cut and paste a passage into it. In a moment, Hemingway will show you a color coded version of your text. It will not change anything. You do that manually. Blue shows you adverbs, green highlights passive voice and prompts how to fix it, yellow is a slightly complex sentence, red is a jumbled sentence, and purple are words that you may wish to simplify.

Hemingway can be used as a writing tool. It will open a new document and save it like any word processor. It also supports Markdown. The program is available for both Apple and Windows.

Do I perform all the corrections that Hemingway prompts? The answer is no. However, seeing my words in a clear manner where all the adverbs and passive voice in the manuscript are highlighted is helpful. I’ve been referring this program to all the writers in my critique groups and everyone simply loves it.

Unsuck-it
Price: Free

As a writer, we all get in a rut and start to use terms that may be useful to only our particular field or genre of writing. These terms often are hard to parse out and state in simple words as you are writing. Unsuck-it is an aid that gives you alternate words to use in plain English. This is not just another online thesaurus. It is geared toward finding alternate words that would work best in a conservative business environment. When you are stuck….unsuck-it!

Creativity Portal’s Imagination Prompt
Price: Free

Writing prompts are always welcome, for writing blog posts, journal entries or using as story starters. This one is free. Just click the button and a new prompt will be shown to you. Keep clicking until you find one that works for you. What is more, the prompt portal is part of a writing community that could be fun to join if you are so inclined. It is worth checking out if you like using prompts.

The Readability Test Tool
Price: Free

Knowing the level of readability for what you are writing can be an invaluable tool. If you are writing YA, you don’t want the reading level of your work to go further than the age group you are aiming your book for. It is also a good test to run on your essays and short stories to find out their readiblity score. If your story reads for college level, it could be that you need to simplify your story. With the exception if it is an essay for a doctorate thesis or literary magazine. You will need to have your work online in order to input the URL for the engine to find it.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator
Price: Free

I have plenty of fun with this generator site. It develops titles for blog posts based on the ideas you feed into it. You only can do one at a time, but if you have a few minutes to spare, it is worth it to see what oddball titles it will come up with.

Wordcounter
Price: Free

This free website offers to find and rank the most frequently used words in your text. You use this to see which words you overuse and to find keywords in your document. It does have a few fillers to remove conjunctions and other words you wouldn’t want in the report. Since it is free, it is worth looking at to add to your editing process. I don’t use this one any longer because I have this feature in Smart-Edit, a more robust program that I purchased last year. However, if you prefer a free tool, Wordcounter gets the job done.

Sharing and Storage on the Cloud for Writers

Castles in the Clouds

Using the Cloud for storing or accessing files has become second nature to most people these days. We use it to back up our files, share photos and text with family, co-workers and friends, or even do our work there, using our devices as mere input hardware.

When it comes to using the cloud for writing, my first thought is Dropbox. It seamlessly integrates with a large assortment of programs on my android table and iPod Touch and can be quite useful when I’m on the go. One my main uses of Dropbox is to store manuscripts as a backup in case I have a hard drive crash. My Scrivener program is set to automatically create a backup on Dropbox at the end of each day. I also like the use the other popular document storage cloud storage, Google Drive. I use this to store manuscripts that I wish to have critiqued privately by a small group of people. Placing it online with a password makes the work easier on everyone.

However, there are more sharing and storage apps available on the internet and I thought that I’d review a few that I’ve tried over the past year. It could be that one of these services might work better for you than Dropbox or Google Drive and could be a great addition to your app arsenal.

Dropbox
Free basic account 5GB storage
This is the one that started it all. I have used Dropbox for many years as a place to store manuscripts and backups of work in progress. It works with Scrivener, my writing program of choice, and it can be accessed from all my devices. It is not quite as flexible as some of the newer services, but it is stable and recognizable.

Crate
The first month is free and then it is $10 per year.
This is a file sharing tool. If you need to move large files via email, for instance novel manuscripts or large book covers, this service will handle it for you. All you do is type in the email you want to send the file to, upload it to their server and they will take care of the rest for you.

Box
10GB available storage for free
This service is similar to Dropbox, but with more free storage. You store your content online and access, share and manage it from all your devices. It integrates with Google Apps. A great way to share manuscripts with an editor or beta readers or book covers with contributing artists.

Cubby
Free Basic Account with 5GB storage
Cubby is another service similar to Dropbox, but its share folders are more flexible. You can have a “cubby” folder in the cloud, or can set any folder in your computer to become a cubby shared folder. If you upgrade to the first level of pro, you can even transfer your manuscripts directly to your various computers without going into the cloud at all. It supports access via all devices just like Google Drive or Dropbox.

Google Drive
5 GB of free storage
I confess that I don’t use this service as much as I should, but most of my writer friends love it. I’ve seen Excel forms set up to track contests, sharing of manuscripts with beta readers privately or in a small group or using the text editor to work on a Nanowrimo project on the fly. You should consider setting up an account here if you don’t have one yet.

SugarSync
Basic Free Account with 2GB storage
SugarSync allows you to instantly save your photos on the cloud, transfer files of any size via email or shared folders and it allows you to set any folder on your computer into a shared SugarSync folder. You can use this service to backup your computer to the cloud and it works with a large number of third party apps such as Evernote, Gmail and Salesforce.

I’m sure that there are many more similar services out there. Is there one I didn’t cover that is a favorite? Let me know in the comments.

Christmas List For Fountain Pen Loving Writers

When it comes time for a Christmas gift, writers can sometimes be difficult to shop for. What we love to do best is to tell stories, and while you can purchase electronic gear for us, sometimes another option would be preferable. If the writer in your family uses a fountain pen for writing, there are accessories that could be wrapped up in a basket and would be greatly appreciated by any writer.

Noodler's black bottle

Give a Bottle of Ink

The gift of ink is always welcome to a writer. Most fountain pen users can always use another bottle of black ink. In the fountain pen world, there are a few popular ones to choose from. These are a few of my favorites.

Platinum Carbon Black
This premium Japanese black ink is waterproof and will be permanent for decades. If your writer needs to keep their writing around a long time or wants to sign checks with their fountain pen, this is a good ink for those needs.

Pilot Iroshizuku Take-sumi
This ink is not the blackest ink on the market, but it certainly has character. The name means Bamboo Charcoal and the ink shades from black to dark grey, rather like how the ancient pigments of charcoal ink did in japan’s past. It is not a permanent ink, but it is quite elegant to write with.

Noodler’s Bulletproof Black
All American made, Noodler’s Black is a favorite among fountain pen enthusiasts. Cost effective and very dark black, it is “bulletproof” which means that the ink is waterproof and fade resistant.

Aurora Black
This is the most popular black ink on the market. Aurora only makes two colors of ink, a black and a blue, but what they make, they make well. Aurora Black is considered one of the blackest inks available and it is suitable for fountain pens that need a more free flowing ink.

tsuki-yo bottle

Does your writer already have three bottles of black ink? Try a nice blue instead.

Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts
This Blue-Teal is bulletproof and flows well in a fountain pen. It is named after the first all black infantry unit in the Civil War. It was considered the ink of the year in 2013. Noodler’s ink is American made and you get a large bottle for a low price.

Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo
This ink is considered the most popular of the new Iroshizuku line and is a dark blue-teal-black. It is conservative enough for business use and is a wonderful unique shade. Tsuki-yo means “Moonlight” in Japanese. It is one of my personal favorites.

Edelstein Topaz
The Edelstein line is a well lubricated ink with vibrant colors. The Topaz is a cheerful turquoise blue with wonderful shading. It works well with a drier fountain pen.

Pelikan 4001 Turquoise
One my my first favorite inks is the inexpensive and somewhat dry Pelikan 4001 Turquoise. The ink is rich and vibrant on the page and shades wonderfully. It makes a great foil for a wet pen that you need to get better control over. I usually keep a pen loaded up with this ink on a regular basis.

rhodia notepad

Wrap Up a Few Notebooks

Apica CD-10
Apica notebooks are Japanese notebooks for school children. They are very plain and come in an assortment of sizes. The CD-10 is similar in size to our own American composition books. The paper is very fountain pen friendly and the notebook is affordable. It makes a great everyday notebooks for class notes, general writing and other daily uses.

Rhodia Notebooks
Rhodia is one of my favorite notebooks. I pick mine up from Dick Blick Art Supplies, but the are available all over. Their signature colors are black or orange. They are not hard to miss on the store shelves. Rhodia paper is smooth and white and feels great under the pen. The notebooks come in a wide assortment of sizes, in both top bound notepads and traditional side bound notebooks. You can get them with plain paper, quads or lined. My favorite size is the #16 which fits snuggly in my A5 sized book cover.

Composition Books with Brazilian Sugarcane Paper
While these handy notebooks are thought of for grade schooler use and perhaps not your first thought for gift giving, they are wonderful notebooks for writers to have around. I go through around ten of these each year for various writing projects and pick them up during back to school sales. The key is to find the ones that are labeled as being made in Brazil. If you look on the back of the notebook, you can find the country of original written on the label. These notebooks are made of sugarcane paper, the leavings of the sugar refinery process that used to be burned. Now days, the sugarcane husks are recycled into paper, creating a green product that not only saves trees, but happily is also extremely fountain pen friendly.

Penvelope

Toss in a Pen Case

Leverage Bomber Jacket Pen Wrap
This luxury pen wrap holds five fountain pens and secures them with a snap tie. The bomber leather matches their other leather goods including notebook covers, pen cups and other items.

Saki P-661 Roll Pen Case with Traditional Japanese Fabric
This inexpensive pen wrap holds several pens in a lovely fabric. It closes with a black tie. I’ve owned one of these to hold my Artist Pitt pens. It is functional, beautiful and lightweight.

Lookout – Three Pen Holster
Nock Co. is a new comer in the pen case business. Their kickstarter program was a wild success and the new pen cases in cordova fabric are quite popular among pen enthusiasts. They offer several different models of pen cases, the Lookout holds three pens in your pocket and wraps them in fabric to keep them safe. You can purchase models that also hold pocket notebooks with your pens too.

Franklin-Christoph Penvelope
I am in love with the leather of Franklin Christoph. I liked what I saw online, but when I managed to find their table at a local fountain pen convention and was able to hold their pen cases in my hand, I was hooked. I personally own a two pen case in boot leather and carry it everywhere. It still looks brand new even with daily use. They are best known for the Penvelope, a six pen case. The pen cases are affordable and perfect for gifts.

All of the inks and notebooks listed above are available via Amazon or gouletpens.com, with the exception of the composition notebooks. Locally, Paradise Pens at your mall should also carry them.

Android Apps that Writers Love

Last year, I made the switch to an Android smartphone and have been discovering the wide world of Android apps. While I still resist obtaining a full sized tablet, I find that the larger smartphone covers most of my on-the-go needs. For writing, I favor using my Alphasmart Neo as a digital typewriter combined with a paper notebook and fountain pen for rough drafting or my full-sized laptop loaded with Scrivener for editing and revising. I tend to not use my smartphone for actual writing.

This is a review of apps that I have found useful on my Android smartphone that I use for research or as a supplement to my Neo and notebooks. I did not want to make this into another “Evernote, Dropbox, or GoogleDrive” review that you see everywhere else. These are Android apps that are not commonplace, but could have a useful place in your writer’s app toolbox. I have not been asked to review the app by the developer nor do I have any financial stake in their product. These are simply my own opinions.

Rory’s Story Cubes
$1.99
Also available as physical dice or as an iPad app

This app consists of 9 cubes that you roll to create combination. Use the images on the dice as the basis to form stories. There are millions of combinations. When you are stuck forming a new story, sometimes these dice can help you tickle out new ideas from your muse. Having the dice in your phone apps keeps them all in one place and able to use when ever you have a free moment.

Android Troper
Free

I like to browse through a website known as “TV Tropes”. It is a great place to find articles about television programs and the tropes behind the storylines. In the tabbed browser you can set the app to hide spoilers, put it in “night mode” when reading in a dark area so it is not too bright. It has a great search feature too.

Simplemind
Free

This is a simple mind map app that imports easily into its desktop client. The export options are somewhat limited, but I feel that its simplicity keeps you more focused on the task than on making the map pretty. Since it is free, it is not a bad little app to add to your writing app toolbox.

Habit Streak Plan
Free

A trick I like to use in my bullet journal is to create “chains” of activity. I make a note of each day that I perform a certain habit. For instance, I have a chain for every day that I write, every day I work on the revision of my novel, and even each day that I exercise. This app allows you to do your chains on your android phone and help you build a streak of habits that make you a better writer.

What is nice about this app as opposed to using a paper notebook is that it will prompt you to report on your success each day. It also allows you to create more than one chain at once. Of all the chain building apps on android, this is the one that I like the best.

Baby Name-o-Matic
Free

One of the more difficult tasks for me to do when writing is naming my characters. A baby naming app is perfect to help in this case. This app not only will suggest names for you, but it will tell you the meaning of those names. It has 10,000 of the most popular baby names in its database. I try to not rate the names, that way it doesn’t narrow the names choices that it gives me.

Clockwork Tomato
Free

I’ve been a huge fan of the pomodoro time management technique and often use it to help boost my word counts. This android app helps to streamline the timing aspects, and being on your phone it makes the timer extremely portable. I can use this app at home or on the go at the coffeehouse.

Write
$3.99

While I personally do not write on my smartphone or have a tablet, the one writing app recommended by my friends that use android tablets is Write. It has a minimalist text editor interface which makes it great for taking notes, writing chapters and it imports/exports to Dropbox and Evernote among others. It has a word count feature which is necessary for Nanowrimo, and a search function for your notes. CNET calls it the “best android notepad apps for students”. If you do need a word processor for your Android Tablet, this is the one to check out.

Nanoprogress
Free

I have covered this app once before in a post, but it is a good one and bears repeating. One of the features of Nanowrimo is the word count graph on the website that helps to motivate you to reach your goals. This is the app that will do it for you. It is a simple, free app for your Android tablet that will help you keep on track at any time of the year.

More iPad Writing Apps That Authors Love

Hands Holding iPadI tend to not use tablets to do my writing. I am more comfortable using my Alphasmart Neo as a digital typewriter, keeping my iPod Touch nearby for research, serve as a dictionary, or to provide music if I don’t like what is playing at the coffeehouse. However, I am discovering that more writers are turning to their Apple iPads as full flung writing devices, forgoing even their laptops in favor of the lighter weight, smaller tablets.

The following is a personal review of iPad apps that family and friends have recommended to me. These apps are all focused on creative writing: some favor markdown language, others are great PDF annotative apps or additions to your favorite note taking apps and one is a great companion to blog writing. I have not been asked to review the app by the developer nor do I have any financial stake in their product.

If you love iOS apps, please also click over to an earlier post: iPad Writing Apps that Authors Love.

Penultimate
iOS 5.01 and later, iPad only
Free

Many writers are used to jotting research notes in a Moleskine notebook with a favorite pen, but with the advent of the iPad, many are turning their offices paperless. The Penultimate app for iPad has been purchased by Evernote and now seamlessly integrates with their note based system. Handwrite notes in the classroom, on the go, or in your office and your sketches will automatically be saved in Evernote. If you have Evernote premium, your handwritten notes will be searchable. Penultimate imitates different paper and pen options to make your writing experience on the iPad more comfortable. If you already use Evernote, this is a no-brainer addition to your already robust note taking system.

iAnnotate PDF
iOS 7.0 and later, iPad only
$9.99

Save your manuscript to PDF and use this app to read and annotate it in your iPad. You can choose different types of text to write with from pens, highlighters, stamps, straight-line, typewriter, underlines, strikeouts and more. Copy and paste your annotations from one document to another. You can connect iAnnotate with Dropbox, Google Drive, Skydrive, iTunes, or open PDFs from emails and the Internet. The PDF reader aids in the editing and revising process by taking your manuscript from one source and allowing you to view it as if it was a printed work, giving you the ability to see your words in a new light. If you are looking for a way to removing printing your novel and using a red pen to mark it up, this might be the solution you are looking for.

Notebinder
iOS 6.0 or later, iPad only
$6.99

I found this PDF note taking app to be interesting because it integrated audio and video capabilities along with your note writing. It reminds me a little of the Livescribe pens that were very popular a few years ago. It allows a little more customization of the screen, is compatible with Pogo Connect and iPen Styli, one touch access to your notes, the ability to easily timestamp notes, and it can switch the touch screen to make it more left hand compatible. However, I find that the import/export is not as robust as the previous reviewed iAnnotate.

Goodreader
iOS 5.0 or later, iPad only
$4.99

This PDF reader has won many favorable reviews for its robust features and integration with many online systems. You can read pretty much anything on it: books, maps, text, and photos. You can even view movies with it. Goodreader can be used for manuscript annotation since you can write on the PDF as if they were printed pages and can even handwrite in the margins. It has all the annotation goodies that you would expect in an app. Exporting is a breeze due to the numerous methods you can utilize. You can import/export via USB cable or a wifi connection, from email attachments and set the app so that it auto syncs with your favorite cloud server. Goodreader connects with Dropbox, Skydrive, Google Drive, SugarSync and many other online servers. Of all the PDF readers I’m reviewing in this article, I feel that this one is my personal favorite.

Editorial
iOS 6.0 or later, iPad only
$4.99

If you love to write with Markdown, this is a minimal app to do that comfortably with on your iPad. With a simple swipe to the left, you can switch from an in-line markdown preview to full HTML preview of your document. The smart keyboard is designed for writing markdown and includes all the special characters you will need. The app comes with 50 pre-configured actions, but you can add to them with your own python scripts to make it even more customized. Your documents sync with DropBox.

Blogsy
iOS 5.0 or later, iPad only
$4.99

While I would not use this app to work on a novel or short story, it is helpful when writing blog posts, something I do almost every day for my writing platform! One of the reasons people buy iPads is so that they can get work done on the go. You can maintain several different blogs at the same time with Blogsy on the following platforms: WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, MoveableType, Drupal, Joomla, Tumblr, Squarespace and MetaWeblog. Use the built-in web browser to drag and drop videos from YouTube, photos from Flicker, Picasa, Facebook, Instagram and Google image search at the touch of a button. Style your blog posts with bold, italics, text alignment and more. Easily change the image and video properties and alignment via menus, write and edit in HTML, toggle comments on and off, and much more. You can also schedule your posts, create online drafts and pending-review posts right inside the app. It also has markdown support. It is no wonder that this app has received so many rave reviews all over the internet.

CloudOn
iOS 6.0 or later, iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad
Free

As a writer, many of us are used to working in the Microsoft Office environment. CloudOn allows you to use your iOS device to access your Word, Powerpoint, Excel files easy to access and use on the go. You can edit documents, spreadsheet and your presentations from anywhere you travel, be it an editor’s office or the local coffeehouse. Transport or store your MS Office files via Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive. The app version of Office is minimalist and streamlined, but it is fully compatible with your computer Office programs.

Cymbol
iOS 5.1 or later, iPad only
$1.99

Cymbol gives a unique functionality to your iPad’s keyboard. This is an app designed by writers for writers and provides a fast access to those special characters not available on the iPad’s onscreen keyboard. On Cymbol’s ready scratch pad, you can save a variety of enhanced character sequences, symbols and other snippets to then be cut and pasted into your written document. Cymbol provides common symbols such as the pilcrow (¶) and section symbol (§), copyright (©), trademark (™), text glyphs such as the number abbreviation (№) and other typography. The application includes full sets of subscript and superscript numbers used in math, chemistry, and physics documentation.