Today’s writer knows that print still has its place, and will for some time, maybe. However, it’s important not to be lulled into complacency and fall behind the times. To help any aspiring digital writers, or anyone caught up in the painful transition between digital and printed mediums, we have assembled a list of the 5 most useful writing apps and extensions.
A quick note: This list will feature 5 useful categories of writing applications and extensions. Each category will have our suggestions for a free pick, as well as a paid option:
1.) Grammer/Spell Check
Anyone that has written anything on a word processor program in the last 20 years should be familiar with this one. They should also be familiar with how frustratingly basic and often times straight-up mistaken these tools were.
Thankfully, the times have changed and grammar/spell check tools have grown in both power and accuracy.
Our top free pick: Grammarly
Grammarly has a paid premium option ($139.99), but the free option is a simple, easy-to-use extension that gets the job done. The interface can be a little clunky, but it more than makes up for it with its accuracy and unobtrusive nature.
Our top paid option: White Smoke
Where Grammarly excels in its simplicity and unobtrusiveness, White Smoke is more of an extensive tool. You input your text into the application, and out comes a multitude of options for any mistakes made. It even has a translation feature!
In addition to a plagiarism check, as well as an in-app translation function, it also stores various templates of letters and documents that you can check your grammar/style against.
2.) Style/Copy Check Apps
Style/Copy check tools are sort of the weird older brother of grammar/spelling check. These tools help you to avoid a lot of readability issues, like awkward wording or sentence length. For those in the know, this not only helps your audience to focus but it also helps with search engine optimization.
Outside of spelling and grammar, style and copy editing is another great way to take your writing to the next level.
Our top free pick: ProWritingAid
ProWritingAid is another unobtrusive app, that does its job well. It identifies and highlights overly complicated sentences, passive voice, abstract wording… etc… then gives you smart alternatives. Its simplicity belies its power and range.
Our top paid option: Hemingway
Probably my favorite app on this list, Hemingway is not only a useful application but it is aesthetically beautiful in use. Hemingway focuses on readability issues by identifying awkward sentence length, spacing, and voice.
As they poignantly describe themselves, “it’s like having Earnest Hemingway standing over your shoulder asking, ‘are you sure you want to word it like that?'”
3.) Workflow/Focus Aid Apps
Writers? Getting Distracted? If you’ve never given one of these a try, it’s definitely worth trying. Workflow or focus aids are essentially modified word processors that focus on boosting productivity.
Most of them do this visually, but there are some extreme apps that lock you out of using anything but your word processor for a set amount of time. None of these made it onto the list because; freedom.
Our top free pick: FocusWriter
FocusWriter is a simple, no-installation app that allows users to create a digital workspace. You can select your own background as well as many other aspects of the look. There is a drawback in that it is only able to open and edit .txt files.
Our top paid option: Write!
Most notably used on the Mac, Write! does have a PC version. This distraction-free word processor doubles as a quick note taker and has a lot of other features built into it.
There aren’t as many options for visual customization as with FocusWrite, but Write! boasts a very well reviewed, sleek UI.
4.) Work/Submission Tracker Tools
Despite what many writers think, staying organized is a priority. These tools help to organize your published/submitted writings by tracking various factors such as the date of publication/submission, profit, genre, and a variety of other metrics.
A must-have for the full-time/freelance writer or just anyone who wants to organize and measure their progress.
Our top free pick: Sonar
What is basically a glorified spreadsheet, Sonar is a stripped-down free software that allows users to track and customize different factors of works submitted/published.
There is a bit more utility than using say, Google Spreadsheets, as this simple software is specifically designed for tracking written works.
Our top paid option: Story Tracker
Originally developed for the iOS, Story Tracker has also been released on Windows. This app has a very intuitive easy to use design, and still does a great job tracking your works.
You can even setup small notifications and such for deadlines!
5.) Idea Capture/Note Taking Apps
Think of all the amazing works of literature that could have happened if only you were able to remember that one idea you had in a dream or while eating a cheeseburger.
Leaving thoughts on napkins, strewn about, might have been enough for writers of previous generations; but these apps give you the edge, storing a limitless number of proverbial napkins, all in one place.
Our top free pick: Simplenote
Simplenote is just your basic notepad application. It has a little utility, like a search function as well as a sidebar with your most recent notes, but that’s about it. And really, that’s all you need.
Our top paid option: Evernote
Evernote, the grandaddy of note taking tools. Over the years it has gained many functions and trended toward a sort of visual project management software, but at its core, it’s a simple notepad app.
The advantage here is the intuitive design and the countless 3rd-party apps that can be used in conjunction with it.
It’s worth mentioning…
…that the suggested apps and extensions are merely that, suggestions. Please take some time to look through each category and find a specific app that works best for you.
Hopefully, you found that this list was helpful. Let us know in the comments below if there was anything we missed out on!
Posted on 2/17/16
Welcome to another of our “Featured Author” blog series.
In this series of mini-interviews, we invite published authors to share their experiences in the world of writing.
We have with us, today, Hugo Award nominee and rock fiction pioneer, Brian Paone.
We are honored to host this mini-interview with Brian and hope you enjoy!
Welcome Brian, to get right into it, what made you first want to become a writer?
In 7th grade, I wrote my first original story called, “The Night is Young”; and brought it into school for everyone to read.
My classmates liked it so much they encouraged me to write more.
Every weekend throughout 7th and 8th grade I wrote a new story, just for my classmates to read on Monday mornings.
My teacher encouraged it so much, she would even go to the front office and photocopy the stories so each student could have their own to take home.
I even had a friend start drawing front covers of all my stories, which would be stapled to the front of the printouts.
So I think the “in-school popularity and quasi-celebrity” status I received in junior high because of my short stories was what fueled the fiction machine for me.
I still have every story I wrote during those 2 years, EXCEPT that very first one.
Someone spilled water on the only copy and the paper disintegrated.
I only wrote short stories from 1988 to 2005.
It was then that I began work on my first novel.
What helped most in turning this into a reality?
My career as a novelist would never have happened, or at least to the success that I have had, if one of my best friends hadn’t died in 2005.
My friend, David, was the lead singer of the industrial-rock band, God Lives Underwater, which enjoyed some commercial success in the 90s.
David had been struggling with drug addiction, depression, and the throes of the music business since I met him in 1995.
We became fast friends, and I was one of the few people who stuck with him through all the highs and lows.
When he passed away in 2005, I didn’t know where the put my grief.
I just couldn’t find a healthy outlet for how I was feeling about losing him.
It was suggested to me to write a memoir about our friendship, but in novel format so it read more like a story than a journal.
My wife was the biggest advocate of me using my grief to write my first novel, and recant all the good and bad times that come with being close to someone who struggled with addiction.
And coincidentally, someone who was also on major tours, on MTV, and all over the radio.
He was a multi-dimensional person, and our friendship was trying yet rewarding all at the same time.
I started writing what would eventually become my first novel, Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts, in January 2006 and it was published in October, 2007—on the second anniversary of his death.
The book sold above and beyond anyone’s expectations, and that’s what led me to stop writing short stories and focus on writing novels.
What do you find the greatest challenge to being a writer is?
The greatest challenge about being a writing is the first 20,000 words of a new novel.
That is really the most critical time where you are figuring out what you are trying to say, and the voice and the tone you are trying to say it in.
When I was writing “Yours Truly, 2095” I wrote about 40,000 words and trashed the whole manuscript.
It was unorganized and too busy.
I was trying to cram a mini-series worth of plot into a single novel.
Once I cut back and started from the beginning again, focused and organized with a single vision, everything fell into place.
Some writers will tell you that the editing process is the most frustrating about being an author.
I, on the other hand, feel that once my book gets sent to the editing team, all the weight has been taken off my shoulders and now it’s just a series of corrections, approvals, omits, and rewrites….
That sounds tough, but when you have a solid editing team that you trust, it’s more like building a puzzle with a few friends, where someone is in charge of the corners, someone else is in charge of edges, and a third someone is in charge of the middle… eventually you all get to the same goal together.
Being on a team while editing is easy… being by yourself during those first few drafts when you don’t even know if you’re coming or going… THAT is the hardest part.
Could you leave any tips for those of us just starting out in the world of writing?
Best piece of advice: drink while writing, and don’t listen to your critics
Worst piece of advice: drink while writing, and don’t listen to your critics
… and beware the procrastination demons.
Thank you, Brian, for sharing your journey with us. We appreciate you for taking the time to answer our questions.
To find out more about Brian and his works, visit: http://www.brianpaone.com/
For a link directly to his works on sale: http://www.brianpaone.com/brian-paone-books/
And join him on his community page at: http://www.facebook.com/
Posted on 10/28/16
Every once in a while you’ll see a book, movie, or just any work of fiction that is inspired by true events.
For some this might indicate a certain amount of ordinary about the signified work, but trivia-buffs know that true events are often times quite incredible!
In honor of the strangeness that has and will continue to inspire our imaginations, we have assembled our “10 Real Facts that are Stranger than Fiction”:
10. A Great Man Comet(h)
Discovered by Edmond Halley, it is the only comet that is visible to the naked eye from Earth with an orbit of less than 200 years.
Gracing the skies of Earth only once every 75-76 years, witnessing it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
However, for Clemens both the days of his birth, November 30, 1835, and death, April 21, 1910, are dates that the comet was passing Earth on the course of its perihelion!
Strange for anyone to witness the comet twice, and stranger still for it to be on his or her first and last days.
9. D. B. “Flew-the” Cooper
Ok- the nickname isn’t legitimate, but actually, neither is the name itself!
D. B. Cooper, or Dan Cooper, was an alias used by an unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 between the airspace of Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.
Incapacitating the crew and passengers with a calmly disseminated bomb threat, he made demands for 4 parachutes, $200,000 in US currency, and a refueling truck to be delivered to Seattle’s, Sea-Tac airport.
This is November 24, 1971, so $200,000 roughly translates to $1,170,000 by today’s standards.
The Police and FBI quickly made arrangements, delivered the demanded items, and refueled the plane at Sea-Tac airport.
The 727 took back off after releasing its 36 passengers and a few non-essential flight crew, .
Using the parachutes, taking the ransom, and preventing even the crew to being able to know at exactly what point, Cooper jumped off mid-flight.
His identity, and whereabouts are still unknown after, a recently concluded, 45 years of FBI investigation.
The D. B. Cooper hijacking remains today as the only unsolved case of air piracy in US aviation history.
8. “The fastest knife in the west end”
In the early 1800’s, the science of surgical medicine wasn’t where it is today.
With anesthesia still relatively in its infancy, the success rate of the surgery, as well as the pain suffered by the patient, had a lot to do with how quickly the procedure could be completed.
There were definitely many speedy surgeons, at the time, but one pioneer stands out among the rest.
Scottish surgeon Robert Liston was hailed as “The fastest knife in the west end.”
Where is the west end? How is it important?
Well, here’s a mini sub-list of exploits by Dr. Liston, himself, that may potentially answer some of these questions:
- Removing a 45-pound scrotal tumor, in 4 minutes, whose owner previously had to carry it around in a wheelbarrow.
- Mistaking a dangerous aneurysm of the carotid artery on a young boy’s neck for an operable skin abscess, and killing him in the process of removing it.
- Amputated a leg in 2.5 minutes, but in his enthusiasm removed the patient’s testicles as well.
- Amputating a leg, again, in 2.5 minutes, accidentally amputating his assistant’s fingers in the process, and with the remaining force of his swing, slashing through a surgical spectators garments.
- Both his patient and assistant later died of gangrene, and the surgical spectator is said to have died of terror on the spot. The only known medical procedure with a 300% mortality rate.
But to exonerate him, at least slightly, he was the first professor of Clinical Surgery at University College Hospital, invented a number of useful surgical tools still used today, and actually performed the first surgery with the use of modern anesthesia.
So- I guess… the west end was just like life in general at the time….
7. Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin
He quickly became notorious for crazy orgies, general debauchery, and the level of influence he had over the Tsar.
Perhaps, even more fabled than his life was his assassination.
Having become an obvious scapegoat for the Russian elite, royal conspiritors invited him over for supper.
Poisoning the drink and food he was invited to partake, the would-be assassins were balked by what seemed like Rasputin’s immunity to the poison.
A member of the royal dinner party, to his left, realized the poison would not do its job and shot Rasputin with a revolver in the chest at close range.
Rasputin made an attempt to escape, as the chest wound proved to be non-fatal. He was shot 3 times in the back while fleeing.
The seemingly immortal Rasputin stirred once more, prompting his assassins to shoot him point blank in the forehead.
All actual accounts show that Rasputin perished from the head-shot.
However, the legend goes on to say that he was beaten with a blunt object, and drowned in a frozen river before finally perishing.
6. The Holy Roman Horse Senator
Apparently, he was a very good horse as the Roman Emperor provided an incredibly lavish lifestyle for him.
In Incitatus’s stable, made purely of marble and ivory, his servants would hand-feed him oats with gold flakes mixed in.
The Roman Emperor even decreed that Incitatus would be made a Senator, and a priest.
This highlights a pretty huge disparity between classes considering general squalor the average person had to live in at the time, ~40 AD!
5. World War 2 Super Spy
Born on Feburary 14, 1912, in Barcelona, Spain, 28-year old Joan Pujol Garcia was determined to contribute to the war efforts against the Franco party, a proxy of Nazi Germany, at the outset of World War 2.
After both the Americans and British refused his volunteer employment as a spy, Garcia decided to go it alone.
He forged an identity as a pro-Nazi Spanish government official and a passport that allowed him diplomatic travel from Spain.
With these he then established contacts within the Nazi-German intelligence network, and began to provide faulty intelligence.
The British MI5 quickly became aware of Garcia’s efforts, and conscripted him as an agent.
His mis-information was so well crafted that for his service as a German spy, he was awarded an Iron Cross.
For his value as an operative for a British MI5 agent, he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire, becoming the only man to be awarded the highest service distinction on both sides of World War 2.
4. The Shocking Primarda Family Tradition
1899, Italy, a man, family name Primarda, is struck dead in his family garden by lightning.
the son of the lightning-slain Primarda, walks out into the family garden and is also killed by a lightning bolt thirty years later, 1929, .
On October 8, 1949, Rolla Primarda, the grandson, steps out into the garden and is also smote by lightning.
3. Twin Things
Jim Springer, and Jim Lewis, more commonly as, “The Jim Twins“, are identical twins that were separated at birth, and re-united at the age of 39.
It was discovered that both Jim’s married women named Linda, divorced, and married a second time to women named Betty.
Coincidence? Maybe- but the similarities don’t stop there.
Both Jims named their sons James Allan, named their childhood dogs Toy, are chain-smokers, have woodworking shops in their garages, drive Chevrolet vehicles, and both served for a time as sheriffs.
The Jims were adopted by two separate families in Ohio, and grew up only 45 miles from each other.
2. The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb
Myths say that horrible curses will afflict anyone who disturbs an Egyptian mummy, especially a pharaoh.
Famous archaeologist Howard Carter, and his team, accomplished just that In 1922.
Carter gifted to his friend and publicist, Sir Bruce Ingram, a mumified hand with a scarab bracelet that read, “Cursed be he who moves my body. To him shall come fire, water and pestilence”, after discovering and excavating the tomb of King Tutankhamun
Immediately after receiving the gift, Ingram’s home inexplicably burned down, then was washed away by a flood after it was rebuilt.
Howard Carter, along with 8 other members of the original excavation team would perish within 12 years of opening the tomb.
1. Not Even on my Worst Poe
The crew mates decide by drawing straws to sacrifice and eat a previously mutinous crew-mate.
His name, Richard Parker.
Grisly, but Poe’s tale finds itself at #1 on our list more because of its creepy similarity to the real-life events of the English yacht, The Mignonette.
The Mignonette and her crew set sail for Sydney, Australia, from the shores of England.
Mid-voyage, the ship is sunk in a storm, and the 4-person crew barely escapes in a life boat.
Stranded and ship-wrecked, the crew manages to scavenge a tortoise, but ultimately decides to kill and eat a crew-mate who is in critical condition.
His name, Richard Parker.
…have been known to happen, but we hope our list had a few facts you found interesting.
Writing can be an under-taking when all you have is a large empty page staring back at you.
It’s always good to keep in mind that inspiration is all around us!
Posted on 9/26/16
The mere thought of the Science Fiction genre conjures a whole host of future-tech imagery, from flying cars crowding the skies with aerial traffic jams to galactic laser battles between planet-sized spaceships.
We discovered in a previous post that classic ideas which have inspired science fiction, like reversing aging or curing incurable diseases, are actually happening right now in the world of gene-editing.
Even still, it doesn’t exactly take a genetically, augmented genius to see that we are not yet living in the “world of tomorrow, today”.
So what is necessary to bridge the technological gap from science reality into science fiction?
Enter the Quantum Computer
Simply, quantum computers, or quantum computing, refer to computers that use quantum-mechanics to represent, process and manipulate data. This is contrary to the traditional digital computer which uses transistors and electric current to produce a binary system (ones and zeroes), in order to compute.
Two underlying principles in the world of quantum mechanics are crucial to understanding the concept of quantum computing:
- Superposition: Unobserved, particles exist in all possible states (i.e. energy, matter, position… etc) at the same time, in the form of a wave function. However, when an observation of the particle’s state occurs, the wave function collapses into a single defined state.
- Entanglement: When pairs or groups of particles are linked in such a way that the interactions of one member of the entangled group effects the other(s), instantaneously. This implies that observation of one entangled member would allow full observation of its entangled fellows.
This is an abridged version of the two ideas, so as far as the why… for time’s sake, you’ll just have to
take my word for it do some independent research.
Applied back into quantum computing, these two concepts operate on the smallest units of information in the quantum computer: qubits. A qubit, or a quantum bit, can be any two level quantum system, such as the spin of a sub-atomic particle in a magnetic field or the polarization of a photon. This is, again, in contrast to digital computers, which use bits that are essentially high and low electrical charges through a transistor.
While they seem to both be variations on the same idea of a two-part information system (ones or zeroes, horizontal or vertical spin, left or right spin…etc), qubits have the advantage as each qubit is a quantum mechanical object. Due to this, they are subject to superposition, which means they exist in both of their states at the same time.
This implies that quantum computing can allow for computations to be run simultaneously that traditionally had to be run sequentially.
Furthermore, qubits are also subject to entanglement. By entangling certain qubits, or sets of qubits, they are not only able store information via their individual states but also in the form of possible shared states with any other qubit in the system, meaning an exponentially higher amount of information representation than a true binary system is capable of.
I Want to Talk to You About Simulations
I’m not talking about the kind of simulation that allows you to experience life as a goat.
Think more along the lines of the kind of simulation Neil DeGrasse Tyson and the Isaac Asimov Panel Debate ask whether or not we are currently unknowingly part of. Specifically, we are considering what research firms like NASA or CERN might use to anticipate problems during actual space travel or discover new properties of our universe.
As shown in a considerable corpus, computer simulation and computer modeling has been the backbone of computing large quantities of variables, exotic 3-d rendering, analyzing complex statistical data and much more. Due to this fact, these types of simulations have and will continue to be at the forefront of technological and scientific breakthrough.
The scalability issues with traditional computers, mentioned earlier, especially hinders progress in this regard. As the problems we seek answers to start becoming increasingly complicated, the toll taken on processing power also increases. At a certain point, systems that are too complex begin to require a longer amount of time or are just not able to be processed at all.
The advent of quantum computing represents the solution to this problem.
So with the computational obstacles of the past out of the way, what are we getting ourselves into?
No longer just a headline in technology news…
IBM, D-Wave, and even Google are several names, among many, who have begun down an irreversible quantum path. It has become clear that quantum computing and its applications hold the keys that unlock doors to new worlds.
Manipulation of the quantum world has often been likened to mankind’s achievements in harnessing the other elements of of nature. However, even the minds behind our greatest space operas cannot perfectly predict the world that a science fiction-like technology will bring about.
The difference between what was within computational reach traditionally and through quantum computers is staggering. MIT reports that quantum computing can currently achieve speeds up to 100 million times faster traditional computers.
This is analogous to the difference between a match and a forest fire.
Classic tales from fiction at large always seem to always warn us of this moment- the moment that Prometheus gifted mankind with fire or when Pandora opened her box. Perhaps these dreams within are what ignite our passions and compel us to walk out closer toward the edge.
Perhaps… but in all seriousness, it’s probably just the flying cars.
Posted on 9/15/16
We’ve all been there… the long sleepless night, the endless supply of coffee, and who could forget the wrist cramps?!
Whether it be for work or school, everyone has had to sit down and seriously write at some point.
Some people find it easy, for some people it’s impossible, and some still lovingly refer to it as a calling.
Being a writer draws on many aspects of a person.
For those of you who aren’t sure if you have what it takes, or just want to re-confirm; we’ve assembled a list of our “Top 10 Signs You’re a Writer at Heart!”
10. You have a thing about grammar
Perhaps one of the most unpopular items on the list, having an astute eye for grammatical errors is a must for writers.
Grammar nuances different details, and establishes clarity in communication.
While often neglected, it is vital in all situations.
As a writer it’s an essential tool to prevent confusion, and aid understanding.
9. You are highly observant
Stories are made exceptional by the details that bring them to life.
No one really wants to live in a drab world of murky grey, so writers must express their characters and stories through sensory details.
The more realistic the details, the more rich the experience for the reader.
In order to achieve this, a great writer must be observant enough to know and re-create subtle aspects of experiences in their writing.
As Ernest Hemingway once said, “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.”
8. You keep a journal/diary
It’s no secret that keeping a journal helps with writing.
Many famous authors are very vocal on the subject and feel that it was one of the more instrumental tools in helping them grow as writers.
Reading back over your own thoughts and experiences often times has a way of helping you to improve your writing.
Now all you have to worry about is your mom finding your diary- I mean notebook… while she cleans your room!
7. You have a great memory
Maybe it’ll be when you’re driving or maybe when you’re in the shower.
But sometimes a great idea just dawns on you out of no where and you don’t have access to your journal!
This is when it’s crucial to have a great memory.
The New Yorker also explains how having a more vivid memory helps writers: “Writing from Memory“.
Memory also helps when it comes to cataloging a ton of words for your vocabulary arsenal!
Coupled with being highly observant, a great memory can provide excellent material for written work.
6. You are a daydreamer
As Hugo Victor once put it, “A writer is a world trapped in a person.”
Writers are more likely to be maladjusted daydreamers as they must spend time tinkering on their inner universe.
They have to get all the little events and details correct before publishing their daydreams for the world to experience.
Writers might also daydream to just imagine experiences that they have not had or cannot have access to.
Sometimes an activity like, “Travel is impossible, but daydreaming about travel is easy. (B.J. Novak)”
If you have a rich imagination, you might just make a great writer!
5. You tend to overthink things
Thinking about thinking is referred to as metacognition.
It’s a process that allows people to explore the meanings, intentions, and outcomes of thoughts.
This is especially useful to a writer as it can help to imbue a realness to the thought processes of their characters.
The list (this list is actually pretty short, there are more) of writers who overthink things to the point of insanity is a long one, and it includes some of the most famous names.
Like many strengths that make a person great at something, overthinking can obviously be a double-edged sword.
4. You love reading
Another contender for the most unpopular item on the list, no one should deny that reading is essential for writers.
Along with helping to expand vocabulary, reading exposes people to the thought processes and writing techniques of other writers.
This exposure to diversity helps to not only identify your specific tastes, but helps to round out your own writing technique.
Besides, aside from the benefits, reading is fun! Right…? Anyone??
3. You are a perfectionist
As Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”
A lot of writers struggle with knowing what to include/leave out of your writing.
Honestly, this struggle has and will probably always plague writers of any era, despite advancements in spell check!
Perfectionism is often times great for catching all of your spelling/grammar mistakes, but there comes a time to put down your work and stop editing.
Kind of like the overthinking, perfectionism is another great example of a strength that could potentially end up harming its beneficiary.
In the world of writing, those who can’t rid themselves of being overly perfectionist are known simply as: editors.
2. You find inspiration in dreams
At the end of the day, inspiration does not come cheap.
Unless, you are a visionary and only need to fall asleep to hear the voice of your muse.
Dream inspiration is not specific to just writing, and some of the greatest artists in all genres accredit their best and biggest works to dreams.
And while inspiration in dreams might be the high-end premium, it does not mean that other forms of inspiration are less valuable.
Great ideas are hard to come by, so the more a you have access to, the better off you’ll be.
1. You love writing
Whether it be that you find it easier to express yourself through writing, or you have just always enjoyed organizing thoughts; our first and biggest sign you are a writer at heart is that you love writing!
The amount of content that most writers must produce for their work is staggering.
And there’s no way around it. In order to improve writing technique you must write more!
It would be a horrible time, at best, if a love of writing was not front and center in the writer’s heart (never mind these writers who say they hated it).
Aside from just improving your writing, it’s a well-known fact that writing contributes to success in many aspects of life, so why not whip out the old pen and paper and start now!?
So that’s it!
We hope that you were able to find a few new ideas to connect with, and realized more than ever that the passion for writing burns within!
Please feel free to leave any signs of being a writer at heart, that we might have missed out on, in the comments below!
Posted on 9/10/16
Hello and welcome to the second iteration of our “Featured Author” blog series!
In this series, we invite published authors to help us explore their experiences with writing in a short interview session.
Today, we have with us, Braxton DeGarmo, MD, author of, The Militant Genome, The “MedAir” series, and Indebted – a thrilling tale of hope and redemption.
We appreciate having Braxton with us today, and hope you enjoy!
Hello Braxton, to get started right away, why did you first want to become a writer?
George R.R. Martin once described writers as either architects – those who design their books, even to the depth of the foundation, before writing – or gardeners – those who dig a hole, plant a seed, water, and see how the book grows.
Like him, I’m a gardener.
In fact, I’m a gardener from the very beginning with the desire to write growing from a small kernel into what I do now.
As a physician and researcher I rarely had time to write and I had never taken any sort of creative writing classes. In truth, I had never considered writing fiction.
Yet, my mother kept nagging, um, encouraging me to write.
I ultimately made my first attempt at fiction with a local contest in 1997 and made it to the top 5 out of 1100 entries.
That’s when the seed was planted. I joined a local writers group, went to seminars, joined a critique group, went to conferences, and put my butt in the chair to write.
That water and fertilizer allowed me to grow in the craft.
What helped most in turning this into a reality?
I mentioned above that I cultivated my writing through seminars, conferences, and more, but the common aspect to all of that, and the thing I recognized as crucial to writing, is realizing that it is indeed a craft.
And, as with any craft, there are techniques and skills that must be learned if you want to be successful.
Plotting, character development and the character arc, pacing, and more must be studied. It doesn’t come naturally for most people who will tell a story without showing the story.
Also, doing any craft well requires practice.
I have people tell me continually that they’ve always wanted to write a book.
The hardest first step is sitting yourself down and writing.
That first attempt might produce inedible fruit, but in time, with the right fertilizer and water, that fruit will be delicious.
What do you find is the greatest challenge to being a writer is?
Actually, for me the greatest challenge isn’t in the writing anymore.
Sure, each book brings its challenges – honing the story, filling plot holes, bringing the characters to life, and so on.
However, the greatest challenge is the business aspect of writing.
A lot of aspiring writers don’t think about their craft as a business, but it is and you have to approach it as one.
As an indie author I have to consider the best avenues for revenue, advertising venues, marketing ideas, editing and cover designs, and more.
After all, I am my own publisher and must take on all of the tasks that a publishing house would do.
Even should you be accepted by a publishing house, you will be called on to do most of your own marketing as a new author.
Only the A-list authors get advertising dollars thrown their way by their publishers.
Your brand is you and your name (or penname) and only you can grow that brand. Don’t trust a publisher to do that.
They might drop you after one book if it doesn’t meet their goals.
So take time to learn the business aspects of having a successful writing career.
Any final pointers for us fledgling writers?
Indulge in an editor.
Not just a copy editor or proofreader, but an experienced developmental editor, someone who truly knows the industry and your genre.
This type of editor is someone who can point out the pacing problems, the need for character development in a certain area, where the plot needs support, and more.
You can learn a lot from this type of editor.
For me, taking this step was a turning point in my career.
As I stated earlier, the hardest first step in writing is sitting down and starting to write.
Yet, it’s equally hard to continue writing when that “overnight” success doesn’t find you.
Even if you don’t discourage easily, there will be times when you wonder if you’ve wasted hours of your life reaching for an unreachable goal.
But keep writing!
As I said, a craft takes practice.
And even when you get that first book out and it seems to be gaining acceptance, keep writing.
Very few “one book wonders” succeed financially.
In fact, studies have shown that only 4% of writers earn enough to live on.
If you’re writing because you think it will make you rich and famous, you’ll burn out in time.
The truly successful writer has a story to tell and a creative, inner drive that keeps him or her going.
For that individual, the financial reward comes with having multiple books “on the shelf.”
Very well put. We’d like to thank Doctor DeGarmo for taking the time to answer a few of our questions.
Find out more on Braxton and his works at: http://www.braxtondegarmo.com
You can find a full collection of his work on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Braxton-DeGarmo/e/B009H9T6E6
And his community page on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Braxton.DeGarmo.Author
Posted on 9/3/16
Enter American novelist, V. C. Andrews….
Otherwise known as Virginia C. Andrews, she’s a New York Time best-selling author and has published 70 works in the last 25 years alone.
Even though, she has been deceased for the last 29 years….
Given the spooky nature of her work, it might be tempting to conclude that her ghost still lingers and writes, even after being released from its mortal coil.
Though admittedly relevant, this story is not unique to V. C. Andrews or even to the writing of novels.
What is Ghostwriting?
Ghostwriting is simply where specified content is created for and sold to the buyer, along with full credit for having created said content.
The traditional idea of ghostwriting also implies that this process remains hidden from public knowledge, so that no one knows a ghostwriter was involved.
Thus the term, “Ghost”-writer.
There are instances where the ghostwriter is ultimately given the credit for the work but the actual idea of what is happening is always the same.
Additionally, ghostwriting is not exclusive to the world of literature.
It is not uncommon for ghostwriters to be used in movie or TV show scripts, song lyrics, music composition, journalism pieces, works of art… and the list goes on….
Why does it Happen?
This is a harder question to answer, as there is no one, specific reason.
First off, we need to consider that ghostwriters have different degrees of involvement in the works they are hired for.
This could mean that a ghostwriter is called in to help finish the work of a creator who has fallen ill, yet must meet a strict deadline.
It could also mean that an entire work, or series of works, has been solely created by the ghostwriter.
That being said, if we could determine perhaps one of the most compelling reasons, it would have to be the idea of publicity.
We will separate the idea of a written publication, of any sort, into two parts:
- Actual content
- Public awareness of its existence
Many people would argue the difference in importance between these two ideas but no author would argue that it is easier to start your own reputation than to borrow one of an accomplished author.
It’s easier to garner sales under names, brands, and ideas that people already have accepted/come to love than it is to get them to take a chance on something new.
How is Ghostwriting Different than Regular Writing?
The main difference between ghostwriting and regular writing is that in ghostwriting a highly specific focus is placed on the voice, or style, of the work.
In regular writing this restriction is less mandatory and the author is allotted more freedom to express themselves.
Ultimately, the audience in both cases must feel that the writing itself is fluid and entertaining; but ghostwriters must also take care to not break from the diction, sentence structure, and tone of the individual(s) they are ghostwriting for.
Many might argue that this then creates a heightened level of difficulty in ghostwriting that is not present in regular writing but this is not always the case.
For many writers, getting all the technical aspects of writing correct is not a challenge. The real challenge comes when having to produce their own unique voice.
Such writers might actually find relief in the fact that they have a set tone and voice to emulate, finding more success with ghostwriting than with regular writing.
What does it All Mean?
The implications that ghostwriting has on literature, and the larger world of creative work, is enormous, yet simple.
It means that when you read a book, watch a movie, or even hear a song, your lavish praise of the creator might not be entirely accurate.
The idea of ghostwriting exposes us to a larger concept of public awareness and how it can be manipulated, in order to create desired results.
We lump these concepts into broader terms like “marketing” or “public relations” but for us writers, especially, it boils down to a few things.
The first one is kind of a no-brainer but it means that there is more public demand for new works from already established authors than there is demand for new works from new authors.
Also, it means that there are many more cogs, which help facilitate the publication process, than can be seen at first glance.
This in turn means that that there are a lot more places for writers to expend their efforts and expand their careers into than can be seen at first glance, as well.
How can I Become a Ghostwriter?
With the advent of blogging and other new mediums of publication, finding ghostwriting opportunities is easier than in days of old.
A simple web search (which was impossible before the internet) will turn up some interesting leads.
However, like anything in the world of writing, ghostwriting is not a field to be underestimated.
The key is to actually have the writing skill to back up your job application.
Essentially, put in what Malcom Goodwell calls your “10,000 hours” of reading, writing, and editing to gain a modicum of mastery in the craft.
It’s also important to keep in mind that, like anything, gaining contacts through your experiences is almost as important as the experience, itself.
Writing can often be a solitary path but people skills are necessary.
While it might not seem that important to help out on some random blog post, it might just become a critical connection later down the road.
Finally, when your big chance comes, remember that you may need to consider how the credit for your ghostwriting can be referred to.
In most cases, ghostwriting will entail signing over full copyright and authorship rights to the hiring party, so being able to cite the experience on your resume can get tricky.
There are always opportunities are out there for those who seek and even more for those willing to create opportunities for themselves!
Posted on 8/29/16
There are certain aspects of writing that fellow writers can all relate to.
Yet, the experience that each writer goes through is unique and individual in many ways.
In order to help us flesh out these nuanced differences and our understanding of writing as a whole,
we welcome author, Nancy O’Neill, to be featured in a short interview.
Nancy is the author of the award-winning children’s book series, Guess What?, and is making a transition into adult fiction with her newest work, Her Way Out.
This will be the first of a many-part series, so we hope you enjoy:
Hello, Nancy, to jump straight into it, why did you to first want to become a writer?
Ironically, I never even thought about becoming a writer.
I have lived by the philosophy that if you keep your eyes open, sometimes the best opportunities are right in front of you, and often when you least expect them. What you do with them is the key.
In the mid 80’s, I fell into a job as an editor for TV Guide. I was responsible for the Los Angeles edition so I had the opportunity to write synopses for local talk shows or PBS specials.
Even though we had to follow strict writing and style guidelines, it was my first introduction to publishing. And being on a weekly deadline was something I actually enjoyed. After working there for five years, I moved on to other industries where I always seemed to work writing into my job.
Sometimes it was advertising copy, newsletter articles, or website content. In my spare time, I began writing poetry and short stories.
It wasn’t until our son was born in 1995 that I started writing children’s stories. I submitted a few stories to publishers, and yes, I received my fair share of rejection letters but that didn’t stop me.
However, I put any idea of becoming a published author on hold while I helped our son start his own business when he was nine years old. By the time he was fourteen, he was helping other young entrepreneurs so he ended up self-publishing a book, which I helped him write.
Other authors started hiring me to help them self-publish which eventually led me to self-publish my first children’s book, Guess What is on Grandpa’s Farm? in 2012. I never planned to have more than one book but when I realized how many young kids ask their parents or teachers, “hey, guess what?” over and over and over again, I knew I had the makings of a series.
Within four years, I had five Guess What? books published.
There are a lot of guessing game books but what makes this series unique is that all of the color illustrations are done by various kids around the world whose artwork was chosen through a contest that I held for each book.
I can’t even began to tell you how rewarding it’s been to work with these amazing kids, to hear their stories, and watch them grow. In 2016, I created a coloring book, Guess What You Can Color? to go along with the reading books.
During the year while I was drawing the images for the coloring book, an opportunity appeared to try writing an adult fiction.
Since I had been writing and editing children’s books for several years, I never felt I could write more than a few hundreds words. But I love a challenge so I took a leap of faith and started writing, and yes, without any plan, direction, or even a rough outline.
All I had was an idea. I got out a spiral notebook and one of my favorite Uni-ball gel pens and started writing.
I knew the writing mechanics and basics of a good story so I just had to remember that I was writing for adults. It took me a year to finish my first novella, Her Way Out, which should be released in November. At about 39,000 words, it didn’t quite meet the word count to be a novel but the characters kept telling me the story was finished so I had to listen.
Surprisingly, I already have the first few paragraphs of a sequel written but I have to force myself to focus on marketing this first one, which is hard for most authors to do since we would rather write and create than promote. Writing an adult book has taught me a lot and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process.
What do you find the greatest challenge to being a writer is?
There will always be people around you that don’t understand what it means to be an author so you have believe in yourself enough to keep writing regardless of what others think.
Any final pointers for us fledgling authors?
- Research as much as you can on your own before you make decisions. Social media groups are good resources but when a writer asks a question and it’s clear they haven’t done any research themselves, they usually don’t get favorable feedback.
- Learn the rules of writing. Then learn when it’s okay to break them.
- When you’ve proofed your manuscript, at least a dozen times, get several beta readers and not just friends and family. There is a new Beta Readers group on Facebook that is really helpful.
- Don’t skip the editing step. Every author should strive to produce the most professional book possible, inside and out. Even if you can’t afford a professional editor, there are some beta readers who have editing experience so it’s worth searching those out. English professors can be a good resource, also.
- Keep moving forward but don’t be in a hurry. That’s when mistakes are bound to happen.
- Becoming published isn’t an overnight process. It takes a lot of work, persistence, and patience but it’s an amazing feeling when you hold your printed book in your hands for the first time.
We’d like to thank Nancy O’Neill for being the first in our “Featured Author”.
Find more on Nancy O’Neill and her upcoming work at: www.onedotenterprises.com
Her “Guess What?” childrens’ book series at: http://tinyurl.com/nancyoneillauthor
And find her community page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nancyoneillauthor