Category Archives: blog

5 Writing and Editing Tools You Should Apply

I don’t often post about writing on my blog, but I am making an exception today. I wrote a version of this article for the High Sierra Writers Newsletter and decided to share it here in the hope it will help other writers.

As writers, we’re more about the creation of the story than the details such as grammar, syntax, and spelling. But before you send off anything, be it a short story, poem, blog post, novel, or query letter to an agent, editor, or a beta reader, you should make it as clean and correct as you possibly can. Your words represent you as a storyteller and a professional. If there are errors in the writing, then it reflects on your ability or lack of editing skills.

I often read and edit for other writers and the problems I see are that many writers just don’t know how to spell, use proper grammar, or good sentence structure. What surprises me most is that they also don’t know what tools are built into their word processor or available on the internet to help correct these errors before they send their work to a beta reader or an editor. Some of these programs are valuable aids to improve writing. Most focus on clarity and business writing where extraneous words are in the way of communicating the information. Nonetheless, they can be very helpful to the creative writer in looking for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.

These five tools, available on the web or in your writing program, can assist you in becoming a better writer with fewer mistakes in your work.  In fact, they can help you with any writing you do.

Word Processor Tools

Don’t forget your word processor has a built-in spell checker and grammar checker. Turn it on when you’re writing. If you misspell a word or make a grammatical error, the program will put a red line under it. Right click on your mouse and it will display spelling or grammar options for what it thinks you are trying to type. With WORD, this is a reasonably good, but not as robust as some of the editing programs offered on line.

Are you at a loss for alternate words? Chances are your word processing program has a thesaurus in it. Highlight the word you want to replace and click on the thesaurus and a list of additional words will display. If you’re not quite sure if the word you want to select has the same meaning, then look it up in a dictionary. Many are online. Not all synonyms have the same definition.

Tools from the Web

This list comes from the NY Book Editors website. You can view the full list and information about each by clicking here. I’ve listed the ones I find most appealing and I use two of them on a regular basis.

An Autocrit analysis screen shows the length and pacing of the paragraphs in your work. In this case, I used one chapter from my book.

Autocrit

This is a subscription service costing almost $30 per month to use but it is designed specifically for Fiction Writers.  (When the NY Book Editors article was written, the author quoted $5, which would have been a bargain, but this higher price tag makes it hard for struggling writers to afford.) With the focus on pacing and momentum, dialogue, word choice, repetition, and strong writing, it can be a valuable tool worth the cost. It also finds instances of passive voice, adverbs, clichés, and filler words. Designed to help you tighten up your story, it makes strong suggestions for change, but the option to accept is always up to you.

EditMinion analyzes many areas of your writing and lists the number of times you use words, what the tense is on your sentence, and many other factors in your writing. I particularly like that it shows the character names. This is great if you happen to change the names and miss correcting one.

editMinion

A FREE, easy to use, and quick tool, this program gives you a comprehensive overview. It shows the most often used words, average sentence length, and the longest sentence by words. It also highlights adverbs, weak words, passive phrases, and clichés. While it may not be the best editor on their list, it does a good job of isolating grammar errors and it is free.

A sample of Grammerly’s information box as you correct grammatical and punctuation errors in your work. The box shows the error and explains why the change is suggested. You need to analyze and decided.

Grammarly

I use this program all the time. It is a comprehensive grammar, spelling, and punctuation checker. It makes suggestions for changes and displays the rules behind the suggested change. The program isolates hundreds of error types that are missed by word processors. It also offers synonym suggestion to improve your writing. The free version is available on line and you can also purchase a more robust version. The features in that include over 400 checks and features to improve your writing, plus 30 specific document types. You can purchase monthly or at a big discount on an annual payment.

Grammarly offers a downloadable app for Chrome, Office, and Windows that works with your word processor program, email or other online writing programs as you are typing. For my purposes, I use the free one. Given that it is a general editor, I believe some of the advanced errors it finds might relate more to business writing than creative writing.

 

Hemingway

Another program I use, this one addresses readability. Based on the concept that Hemingway wrote to a sixth-grade reading level, the application analyzes your writing and provides statistics on reading time, the number of paragraphs, and the word count. Using color coding in your text, it highlights problem areas, such as passive voice, adverbs, and difficulty to read. While I enjoy the analysis, I do find it contradictory when it tells me I write at grade 4 level but my sentences are too long and complex. For the other features in it, I think it is a useful program. You can use it online or pay $19.99 to download the desktop application.

 

 

 

This article was originally published in the August 2017 issue of the High Sierra Writers newsletter, written by Rene Averett, my real name.

Come See Me at…

…Earth Day at Idlewild Park in Reno Nevada.

If you live in the area, I’d love to meet and chat with you at our booth, #1020 that I am sharing with authors Margaret McGaffey Fisk (The Steamship Chronicles, Seeds Among the Stars) and Angelina Fasano (Alpha’s Song) at Earth Day today, April 23rd. We’ll be happy to sign your books.

We also have photos by Colin Fisk for sale.  Not to mention jewelry and bracelets. Fun things!  Come on out!

Say Hello to Kimberly Iverson

Wrapping up my trio of quick interviews with writers featured in the big Speculative Fiction giveaway on Instafreebie, I’m pleased to introduce Kimberly Iverson, the fantastic lady who is hosting the giveaway and a pretty awesome author.

In line with my unplanned trend of featuring west coast authors, Kimberly fits right in, hailing from near Seattle, Washington. She is a prolific writer with numerous books in several genres, such as the Dark Illusions, Dynasty of Moirae, and Guardian of Life series. If you’re looking for some good reads, check out her books. Now to the chat:

LW: Please tell us about the book that you’re featuring in this amazing giveaway and what inspired this story.

KI: I’m combining these two because this is a multi-part answer for me. They go hand-in-hand. By that I mean that Hope of the Future was two different books. The first book that I wrote was inspired by simply the idea of what would happen (mind you, I was very young for this idea – 12 to 16, I think) if in the future, humans kept other humans as pets. The other idea I had was similar to that, but I wondered what would happen if women could no longer bear children, but because they were so desperately afraid, their bodies changed and prevented it? What would happen if that had such repercussions that even generations down the line, that was so ingrained it changed humans? Next thing I knew, when I was editing the second book, which was Hope of the Future, I felt it was lacking, and a friend offered me a tip, which then led me to remember the “Future Story” I had from when I was young. I removed about 90% of that story, and combined the other 10% into the first Hope of the Future. After that I thought of humans living longer and the rest came to light.

LW: Awesome. I love it when something that didn’t work out long before becomes relevant in a new project and can be incorporated. Nothing is ever lost when writing. But when you sit down to write, what is the one thing that you absolutely have to have?

KI: Water. That sounds so odd, but I can’t. I can go without music, without sitting at the desk, without pretty much everything except…water. I will even drink coffee or hot chocolate, sometimes green tea (Arizona Green Tea with Honey is what I love the most), but I will always have water. I was a mermaid in a past life, I’m sure.

LW: Very interesting and maybe you were a finned-female in the past. While you’re sipping on your water and plotting, do you slip any secrets in your books that only a few people will find? (Drop a hint, I’m a Pisces myself, so no secrets among fishies, right?)

KI: I do! But then…if I told you, they wouldn’t be secrets now, would they? For those readers like myself who love books so much that unless they truly hate it, they’ll read it again, I have little secrets in the majority of my books. Some are obvious, some come through double-entendres, but most you have to pay close attention to the stories and all my books to find.

LW: Guess I have a lot of reading to do, but that’s okay. I’m intrigued. What is your process for choosing names for your characters?

KI: This depends on the person and story. Many times the name is there. There’s no other name it could be. Like with Hope. She is the epitome of the term so for me, her name couldn’t really have been anything but Hope. When I struggle, I may make one up, grab one out of thin air, or do what I did back when my mom bred Shih Tzus when I was young. Go to the baby name books. Nowadays it’s baby name sites. I research the pronunciation, the terms, what the name means, all of it. Some names go through a few changes before it’s settled. Like Ronin in Hope of the Future. Not sure how many names that man had before I chose Ronin.

LW: I hear that! You try out a few then one day a name just clicks. Actually I’ve done that with my pets when naming them. And with that thought in mind, what’s your favorite paranormal creature and why?

KI: Has to be the werewolf. I think it’s because I grew up seeing them a lot. I watched planet of Body Snatchers and zombie movies, but I was always drawn to werewolves. My love of wolves in general could be a clue, and that I constantly dream about them, but I am also drawn to Beauty and the Beast and I think that contributes. Their strength, power, and presence. That they could be beast or human. Walk in day or night. To me, they have a lot of the great attributes of vampires without the desperation for blood so they are in many ways still alive and can LIVE like a human.

LW: Definitely cool characters those wolves. I thought maybe you’d go for a sea creature. When you have time to relax and read, who are your favorite authors?

KI: My favorites are always the people who make me forget everything. I start reading and then I’m late to bed because I thought . . . just a few more words, annnndddd I’m five chapters in. Those people are: Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, Anne Rice, Keri Arthur, George R.R. Martin, and J.K. Rowling. I only just read Harry Potter for the first time in 2015 so I was late to that game, but I love it. I also recently read Alianne Donnelly’s Wolfen and that story sucked me in.

Thanks very much for taking the time to do this and for hosting this great giveaway. You can learn more about Kimberly’s work on her website and forum:

Speculative Fiction Writer & Occasional Paranormal Romantic
kimberlysueiverson.com
Come by the new forum!
kimberlysueiverson.boards.net

So, those of you who haven’t read anything by Kimberly Iverson yet, this is a great opportunity to pick up a free copy of Hope of the Future and maybe find a new favorite author. By the way, she’ll be releasing two more books in the next few months.

Just click the picture for the link to the giveaway page where you’ll find over 80 books for free downloads, including one of mine and my short story as well. Hurry. This giveaway ends on March 4th!

A Short Chat with Author Jerry Gerold

Checking in with my second interview during the Speculative Fiction Giveaway promotion, I’d like to introduce you to Jerry Gerold. He’s a diverse author, writing in various genres from science fiction to horror, mystery, and romance. Originally from Portland, Oregon, he moved to Sacramento, California, then eventually returned to Portland, where followers of Grimm know that it’s not safe. Why are you there, Jerry?

Seriously, Portland is a great city and really inspires authors and artists. Speaking of which, Jerry also draws anime characters. Truly a talented guy. So let’s get to the questions.

LW: First off, tell us about Strike Aura, the book you have up for grabs in this giveaway.

JG: Strike Aura starts out on Earth, with a young man named Cordell being visited by a young woman from another world, Haza, who presents him with a mysterious box. She opens the box and he falls instantly in love with her. Then her childhood friend Fia arrives and claims she is also in love with him, because of the box. The double planet these women come from, Versac-Nestantia, is nearly depleted of men and are forced to use this method of attracting mates. Versac-Nestantia is at war with the Uvii, a planet completely devoid of men. The Uvii are warlike and intent on taking men by force. Because of Haza and Fia, Earth moves to the top of their list. Haza and Fia now must defend Earth using their invention Strike Aura (the human aura weaponized) to stop the Uvii and put their war to an end. Cordell gets caught up in this conflict, not only between planets, but between Haza and Fia.

LW: Women from two worlds on the hunt for men? That sounds like a good read and one I plan to pick up. What triggered this idea for your novel?

JG: Strike Aura is the result of watching too much Japanese anime over the course of two years. I had a lot of ideas after watching them and wondered if anyone out there was writing novels in an anime-type style and decided I would do it. The plot of a single, uninteresting male being visited by females from outer space is common among anime plots and that’s how my story begins.

LW: Anime inspiration is great. What can potential readers expect from this novel?

JG: Space travel, alien planets, alternate universes, interesting situations, goofiness and sex.

LW: Sounds like fun to me. Speculative fiction often has unusual and alien-sounding names in it. How do you select the names for your characters?

JG: A lot of cases, they just come to me. The character will introduce themselves to me and tell me their name. In the cases where this doesn’t happen, I have to designate them one. I have changed names in the middle of a story on more than one occasion. For made-up, science fiction-like names, my fingers just tap out a few letters and I decide if I like it or not. Haza and Fia are the products of this method. Cordell introduced himself to me. Another character in the book, went from Christel to Crystal to Krystal.

LW: I know what you mean about names evolving and changing. Which authors do you like to read?

JG: I grew up reading and loving Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Piers Anthony, Dean Koontz, Robert Heinlein and Philip K. Dick. All of these authors drew on my imagination and made me view the world in a different way. They made me want to keep reading and eventually start writing. I wanted to create my own worlds for others to read and maybe tap their imaginations and make them view the world differently, too.

Thanks, Jerry! Check out the giveaway below to pick up Strike Aura and go to Jerry’s author page to see more novels to entice you, including mine, O’Ceagan’s Legacy, a sci-fi adventure novel.

Free Book: https://instafreebie.com/free/fwX0R
Author page: https://www.facebook.com/Jerry.Gerold.Author/

Meet Joshua Robertson, Dark Fantasy Author

As I mentioned in my blog yesterday, I have three short interviews with writers included in the current Speculative Fiction Giveaway to share with you. I think you’ll find them interesting as your learn a little more about the writers and the thoughts behind the books.

I’m starting off with Joshua Robertson. He hails from Kingman, Kansas and graduated from Wichita State University where he received his Masters in Social Work with minors in Psychology and Sociology. He is the CEO of Crimson Edge Press, the Goblin King from the Goblin Horde on YouTube, and a bestselling author in dark fantasy.

LW: You’ve got quite a few books and some short stories out. Tell us about them.

JR: I have written several things over the past several years, but I am most well known for the Thrice Nine Legends Saga. The saga consists of short stories, standalone novels, and trilogies in the fantastical world of Aenar, and the books will continue to grow in the future. Currently, readers can find several short stories on Amazon, including Strong Armed, When Blood Falls, and The Name of Death. The Name of Death has been on the short reads bestseller list for Science Fiction & Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, and Literature and Fiction for almost two months, frequently holding the number one spot.

Anaerfell is the first book in The Blood of Dragons series, and is typically the book I will direct readers to read before delving into the other stories. The Kaelandur Series chronologically takes place after Anaerfell, but readers may choose to start with the bestselling novel, Melkorka, too.

Melkorka, Dyndaer, and Maharia (Coming March 2017) are the three novels that make up The Kaelandur Series, telling the tale of a slave trying to save the Ash Tree by keeping a cursed dagger from demonic hands.

LW: That’s a very exciting body of work so far with stories that sound intriguing. You say they are dark fantasy. What can the reader expect from your novels?

JR: I often get asked why I categorize my books as dark fantasy instead of epic fantasy or high fantasy. Truth be told, you could use any of these genres interchangeably. Yet I would warn readers that my books do tend to lean toward some harsher, grittier scenes. Some have compared my themes to J.R.R. Tolkien but my tone to George R.R. Martin. My books are character-centered, eliminating the voice of an omniscient narrator. Readers should expect pained realities, strong moral lessons, epic wars, and theological undertones to keep them thinking when the last page has been turned.

LW: Some clever authors hide little bits in their books that their fans enjoy finding. Do you hide any secrets in your books that the more knowledgeable may find?

JR: I do like to trail little crumbs throughout my books to hint at larger truths, and then I sit back and wait for my e-mail box to overflow with fans guessing at what’s what. And then the next book is released, and I either receive exuberant, “I told you so’s”, or I get the flummoxed, “You clever bastard”. Melkorka was written so readers would receive one message, and after reading the sequel, Dyndaer, would find a second meaning in the tale, giving cause for a second reading. Maharia will toss them through another loop altogether. My intent is to write stories that readers would enjoy reading time and time again.

LW: I believe that writing is a continual learning process and writers grow with each piece they do. A first book is a milestone, so how did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I learned how to write smarter. Melkorka took me over a year to edit, even though I wrote the story in less than 30 days. My overuse of adverbs, adjectives, passive sentences, etc. could have broken any writer from ever laying pen to paper again. The manuscript had the pieces of a great story, but I felt like Dr. Frankenstein trying to reanimate the dead when attempting to give the book some life. Even today, I will find areas in the first novel where I think I could word something better, or change syntax, or give more description. Since that time, I have taken advice of those more successful than me; I have learned to successfully write and edit simultaneously. This takes some restraint and balance, but if you correct the little things, like passivity, while writing, you can write a much cleaner first draft.

LW: As a writer, I believe we are all inspired by the authors we prefer to read. Who are your favorite authors and why do you enjoy them?

I have a long list of authors I particularly enjoy, and most are the typical greats of fantasy literature. I like J.R.R. Tolkien for his themes and his world-building. I appreciate George R.R. Martin for his expression of realism in fantasy fiction. I admire R.A. Salvatore for his humanness, morals, and flow of story. I have long been a fan of Robert Jordan for his ability to paint a scene and strategically incorporate symbolism into the duality of his series. In modern times, I find several up and coming fantasy authors who mirror these same skillsets, ever eager to share their own tales.

My thanks to Josh Robertson for this mini-interview. You can find his short storyThe Name of Death in the giveaway. Visit his web site at http://www.robertsonwrites.com/ to learn more.