7 Essential Tech Tools That All Writers Need To Have

Laptop on deskIt’s now easier than ever for writers to take their work from an idea to a published manuscript. The advances in technology and rise of the Internet offer a platform for authors that’s creating a self-publishing revolution. Additionally, websites like www.AllAbouttheAuthors.com help guide you through the process.

There is also a vast array of wonderful apps and tech tools that support writers during all stages of their writing. These seven are essential for modern authors and will help you make your book into something that will take the world by storm.

Scrivener 

By far the most comprehensive tool on the market, Scrivener is a word processing app on steroids. It allows you to set up a personalized writing studio that includes a virtual cork board and summary tags. You can easily organize research, write documents, and edit them individually or as a group. 

The outliner tool allows you to create synopses and metadata for each piece of work so they can be easily navigated. This is perfect for those writing books because you can divide the manuscript into smaller sections while keeping a detailed overview of the whole project. It’s also great for freelancers who are working with multiple clients at once.

Wunderlist

Wunderlist is a fantastically useful online to-do list. Each point opens up an individual card where you can add additional comments, files, due dates and reminders. It also allows you to network with teams for collaborative projects and easily assign different tasks to members. 

Any author knows that the actual writing of your book is only a miniscule part of the process, so having a tool that can help you organize all of your marketing, liaising, planning and formatting as well is infinitely useful.

ExpressVPN

 For writers, your computer is the most precious piece of equipment you own. Due to this, keeping it safe and secure is an essential pursuit. One of the greatest dangers to a writer’s online security comes from the necessary evil of relying on public WiFi. Whether it’s having an intensive writing session in your local coffee shop or checking emails on the train, these notoriously insecure networks are hard to avoid.

Using a VPN such as ExpressVPN is a great way to secure yourself when out-and-about because it encrypts all of your data and allows you to browse without any risk. It also lets you bypass geo-blocking restrictions, which can be an added bonus when performing research.

 F.lux

 For authors, a large amount of the day is spent staring at a computer screen.  While this is when the magic happens, it also takes a nasty toll on your eyes. F.lux is a truly handy tool that, once installed, adjusts the tones and brightness of your screen based on time of day to help reduce the damaging affect.

It’s also great for those of us who find ourselves writing into the early hours of the morning. It does so by naturally dimming the lights. It encourages you to adhere to your circadian rhythms and sleep better. 

Hemingway

The Hemingway readability software is a wonderful tool that helps you clean up your manuscript after the first draft. Providing a user-friendly system that highlights words and phrases in different colors, you can get an objective view of how well your work reads.

Yellow highlights overly complex sentences. Red means it’s too long and meandering to understand. Other colors represent other areas of your writing that demand your attention. I’d never recommend you rely on this completely but it does provide a useful alternative perspective.

Cold Turkey

One of the greatest pitfalls for authors is distraction. We live in a world of constant connection to our friends, colleagues, and unlimited entertainment. This is why Cold Turkey is perhaps ones of the most useful tools in a writer’s arsenal.

Its bulletproof format allows you to schedule blocks on specific websites or even your work email. It is very difficult to stop, edit or uninstall the program once the timer has begun. This means you can easily get into an intensive writing session without anything drawing your attention away.

Writer’s App

 Creativity is something that can’t be scheduled; often you can find yourself in the most inconvenient situations when a moment of brilliance comes to you. Writer’s App is an easy-to-use planning software for novelists, which lets you jot down ideas for books in an organized and easily-navigable manner.

The user interface was presented as a work desk. Books are organized by title and, once opened, have sub-sections for plot, characters and others, or can be viewed by chapters. As simple as this app is, it truly is one of the most useful tools available for brainstorming ideas.

Do you know of any other tools that deserve a place on this list? Have you used any of the tools listed above and want to share your thoughts? Be sure to leave a comment below, as I’d love to hear your ideas!

About the Author: Caroline is an entertainment blogger for Culture Coverage. She’s written all throughout her life and is probably working on some project right now. She loves how technology has revolutionized the way we write!

Want to write a guest post for All About the Authors? We welcome guest posts from authors and those who are experts in the book industry. What is your writing process? Where are you in your publishing journey and what advice do you have? Have you successfully marketed your book and do you have tips to share? All About the Authors wants to hear from you! If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to All About the Authors, please send your information and topic idea to allabouttheauthors@gmail.com with the subject line “Guest Post” or comment here.

 

Passive Voice: Why It’s the Worst

Writers should avoid passive voice whenever reasonably possible, mostly because many agents and editors consider it a pet peeve. In case you don’t know, in brief, passive voice is when you use any version of the verb “to be” including are, am, being, was, is, be, become, etc. with a past participle.

passive: The sentences in the paper were all passive.

active: Kate rewrote her paper in an active voice.

active voiceSometimes passive construction is the only real option, but that’s the case a tiny fraction of the time. Generally writers need to be aware of it and get rid of it whenever possible. It’s boring and, well, passive.

  • It slows action down and you want action in your book. Sometimes it can even cause confusion such as: “Dave was slung back against the wall in a hard thud.” It sounds like this happened by magic—like the way Darth Vader can choke someone from across a room. The writer ought to have a person sling him, hence getting rid of the passive voice: “The intruder slung Dave back against the wall.”
  • In certain situations, such as in business when trying to explain to a customer that they did something wrong without placing blame, you’d use the passive voice: “The orders were transmitted with errors” instead of “You sent orders with errors.”

How to Fix It:

  • The easiest solution is to reverse the sentence. Instead of saying “The company was sued by John,” you’d say “John sued the company.” This happens a lot when the acted upon becomes the subject and the actor is the object. If the actor is the subject, then you’ll always have an active situation.
  • Change your verb tense. There’s no good reason to say, “Erin was standing,” when you can say, “Erin stood.”
  • Try to get rid of as many “That was” and “It was” phrasings as possible. (Often in this construction there is a second “that” which also needs deleting for the sentence to make sense.)

passive: That was the solution that presented itself.

active: The solution presented itself.

  • Even when it doesn’t feel like adding action to you—changing “is” to “seems” for example—it still unconsciously registers with readers as less passive. Go through and see how many passive voice constructions you have in your writing. The exercise will make you think more carefully about word choice.

But passive construction is also okay. It’s a part of life. I’ve used passive verbs fifteen times in this article, not including examples. You don’t want to use them when they’re not necessary, particularly if there are good alternatives. But don’t do acrobatics and make your sentence structures convoluted just to avoid them.

A Few Basic Rules of Grammar, Style, and Punctuation

Some of what I’m going to say here might strike you as wrong. You might be more familiar with AP style, which is commonly used in newspapers, magazines, and some websites. However, book publishing uses The Chicago Manual of Style, and that will account for most of the differences between how you think things ought to be written and what is correct for yooxford_comma1ur manuscript.

  • Use the serial (or Oxford) comma. That means using a comma before “and” in a series of things, so you have “apples, pears, and peaches.” That second comma is the serial comma. It’s the norm for books and occasionally helps with clarity. You do not need a comma in a list of two items.
  • Comma splices happen when you join two or more sentences together just by commas and not by conjunctions or semicolons, commas do not join sentences. (That was a comma splice right there.) You can instead rewrite it to make it into one sentence or make them each into their own sentences. And don’t use more than one semicolon to join sentences. If you feel the need, make a new sentence. Trust me, if you’re wondering about this one, your sentence is too long.
  • When someone is cut off or interrupted, a dash is appropriate. That’s when you should use a dash—like this. It should not have spaces on either side of it and it is actually known as an em dash. Word will create it for you if you type two hyphens and keep typing, or it’s easy to find on the Insert tab. Ellipses imply that someone is trailing off, or has just slowly stopped speaking. Use four if it’s the end of a sentence (period plus three ellipses). Be careful not to overuse either dashes or ellipses.
  • Avoid participial phrases as they do not make for sophisticated writing. Participle phrases are the most common modifier to misplace or dangle. So instead of, “Breathing hard through his teeth, he gained control over the pain,” instead you would rephrase to: “As he breathed hard through his teeth, he gained control over the pain.”
  • Always start a new paragraph when changing speakers. In dialogue, the first word needs to be capitalized every time, and there must always be ending punctuation. If the dialogue tag is a lead-in, it must always have a comma, such as: She said, “Yes.”

Content/developmental editors won’t actually fix up many grammar issues (just their own pet peeves mostly) but a clean manuscript shows you have some understanding of how the English language works, in all its bizarreness, and that you pay attention to detail. It helps editors and agents better see the forest for the trees.

Ten Tips for Self-Editing

To best utilize a professional editor, your manuscript ought to be as perfect as you can get it yourself, first. If you self-edit, you can reduce the cost of editing, as well as allow the editor to see the real heart of your manuscript, when it isn’t obscured by superficial and easily fixable issues. Here are some methods you should try.

1. Use Microsoft Word’s editing options fully

Word has a lot of options to help with your editing. Go to File-> Options-> Proofing-> When correcting spelling and grammar in Word-> Writing Style: Settings-> Style: Sentence length (more than sixty words). Next, run the Spelling & Grammar check and it will give you a blue squiggle underline for every super-long sentence. In the Require section, mark always for the comma before the last item (book publishing uses the serial comma), for punctuation inside quotation marks, and for one space after a period (not two, that style changed about thirty years ago). You can also have Word check for passive verbs, fragments, and clichés. It won’t catch everything by a longshot, but it’s a good starting point.

2. Get rid of time-framing words

If you place one thing after the other in the story, you don’t need to preface it with “then.” Excise these time-framing words such as “all at once,” “began,” “eventually,” “immediately,” “just,” “often,” “proceeded,” “started,” or “suddenly” whenever possible. They are unnecessary, make your writing wordy, and can make your writing feel timid and insecure, like you don’t trust the readers to get from A to B to C.

3. Scrutinize your words

Eyeball every adverb and delete most. Look over nonspecific adjectives like “really,” “super,” and “totally.” Specify or delete any nonspecific words or phrasing like “sort of,” “kind of,” “things,” “something,” and “stuff.” This is when editing online can be helpful as most of these can be addressed using “Find.” Delete every “Being that.” Don’t use complicated words when simple ones will do. Make your verbs active, not passive.Chicago Manual

4. Familiarize yourself with the Chicago Manual of Style

This is the style guide used throughout book publishing. It might be significantly different than what you think are appropriate style choices such as the above mentioned serial comma.

5. Change your font

And do it more than once. Change the font, change the size, change the color. This helps you to be able to see the manuscript in a new context. (But when you are done with editing, change it back to a common serif font su ch as Times New Roman or Garamond and stick to it.)

6. Print the manuscript

While online editing has its advantages, you see things in print that you don’t see on the screen.

7. Read your manuscript out loud

Yes, this will be time-consuming and awkward. However, this exercise will smooth over difficread aloudult phrasing, make dialogue sound more realistic, and highlight errors that the brain fixes for you. Try to read it in a flat voice so you can hear where certain phrasing might be misunderstood without tone. You can also have your computer read it to you which would achieve the same effect.

8. Beginnings and endings

Do read over your beginnings and endings carefully but not just the beginning and end of the book—look at the beginning and end of each chapter. Each chapter should end on a cliffhanger as best you can. Try to keep readers reading. Don’t wrap things up too tightly. And be careful your chapters aren’t too long. Short chapters keep the action moving along.

9. Ask a friend

Ask your most critical, most honest friend for feedback. Assure them of no recriminations. Ask them specific questions, such as, Where did you lose interest? Were you confused at any point? Who was your least favorite character? Did you know why the main character did X? If you had to cut a scene or a character, what would you cut?

10. Put it in a drawer

Forget about the book for a while, as best you can. Put it aside for a monthdrawer or so. Work on other things. Use the time to plow through other responsibilities and your to do list so that when you come back to tackle your manuscript with fresh eyes, you aren’t distracted by other responsibilities.

Write first, edit second. Don’t confuse the creative process with the editing process. And don’t use editing as a way to procrastinate finishing writing. On the other hand, don’t over-edit. Self-editing is a great head start, but even the world’s best writers need a second set of eyes. Learn to know when it’s time to let go.

At that time, we can help.

Should You Hire An Editor Quiz

Are you on the fence about hiring an independent editor? Not sure you need one yet? Don’t want to jump the gun? Understandable, as it’s not an easy or inexpensive step in the process, so here are questions to ask yourself to help you decide:Bird by Bird

  • Have you edited and rewritten your manuscript until your eyes want to fall out of your head and you’re sick of the book?
  • Have you exhausted all of your beta reader options, from your cousin to your college roommate to your elementary school Language Arts teacher?
  • Have you joined a writing group and gotten critiques?
  • Have you taken a writing class or workshop?
  • Have you applied all of the writing/rewriting/editing advice out there (including mine)?
  • Have you read On Writing by Stephen King? Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott? Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg?
  • Do you want your book to find a wider readership and be read by people outside of your friends and family?
  • Do you want to pursue traditional publishing and try to get a literary agent?
  • Do you want to self-publish but want to be sure you self-publish a great book you can be proud of?

Some of these questions might sound self-serving, but if you are putting together a family history just for a handful of your immediate family, that doesn’t need an editor. If you haven’t read any books on writing and haven’t asked anyone to read your manuscript, you might need an editor, but you’re not there yet. If you answered YES to five or more of these, you can be pretty sure you are at a good place for hiring an editor where you won’t be wasting your time or money. If you’re at fewer than five, you still have some options before going to a professional editor, which will decrease the cost when you do get to that stage.

When you do get there, check out the videos in our Author Resource Center as Nicole has some tips for how to find the right editor and what the different types of editing are.

What’s Happening in the Author Resource Center?

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Now’s your chance to tell us what you’d like to see. What book industry topics do you want to know more about? What questions keep you awake at night? What type of content do you like best? Let us know in the comments. And if you have a question, send us an email.

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