Articles tagged "Writing Tips"

5 More Apps Every Writer Needs

5 Apps For Every Writer

Your writing time is precious. Last year we gave you five apps that every writer needs to check out. We’re back with five more apps to help you stay organized, stay on track, and make writing that much easier. Or maybe they’ll help make your life easier. Either way, you’ll thank us.

1. Evernote

We’ve talked before about the importance of using the cloud in your writing, and we called out Evernote in particular. Whether you’re using it for writing, note-taking, or research, Evernote is great at pulling everything together. You can save websites for quick reference, snap photos, and even chat with someone if you’re collaborating.

Best of all, Evernote syncs between every device it’s installed on. So type on your phone while you’re on the go and take a quick picture, and it’ll be at you laptop when you get back home. When you don’t have to worry about where you’re writing, it makes it a lot easier to actually get to writing!

Available on Android, iOS, and desktop.

2. Simple Pomodoro

The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the 1980s as a time management system, named after the Italian word for “tomato.” The basic idea is that you focus for 25 minutes at a time, punctuated by 3-5 minute breaks.

The good news is that you don’t need a tomato-shaped kitchen timer (after which the method is named), because you can time yourself from your phone or tablet. One of the best is Simple Pomodoro; like the name implies, it’s simple and straightforward. Tap to start the countdown, and when time’s up your break will start automatically count down, too. You’ll be amazed at how your time management improves once you get into a rhythm.

Available on Android.

3. Trello

Sometimes getting things done isn’t the problem – it’s keeping track of everything that gives you a headache! A little management can go a long way in keeping tasks straight. Trello is a project management system, but it works just as well for writers.

At its most basic, Trello works like this: you have boards for big projects, lists for groups or related tasks, and cards for individual tasks. This will let you break up your writing process however you wish: by chapter, by theme, by characters, and so on.  Once you get organized and don’t have to worry about figuring out where you left off, you can get past the planning and onto the writing.

Available on Android, iOS, and browsers.

4. Coffitivity

You have an issue: you have trouble working when things are too quiet, but turning on music or the television distracts you. What you really need is the perfect amount of background noise to keep you grounded. After all, studies have shown that ambient noise can spur creativity. Try Coffitivity as an easy way to keep those creative juices flowing.

Coffitivity lets you use the mild hustle and bustle of a coffee shop to keep you on track. Choose from ‘Morning Murmur,’ ‘Lunchtime Lounge,’ or ‘University Undertones’ and start listening. It’s that easy! Give it a try and see if it helps you get over that bout of writer’s block.

Available on Android, iOS, and web browsers.

5. IF

Ever wish you could automate the little things in your life? IF, the app from IFTTT (If This Then That), lets you connect the other apps in your life to try to make things a little easier.

The way it works is all in the name: “if something happens, then do something else.” You define the “somethings.” For example, if you favorite a tweet, then save it to Evernote. Or if you miss a call, then respond with an automated text. There are tons of supported apps and devices, from Facebook to Fitbit, and crossing even a few things off of your to-do list with automation will save you a lot of time in the end.

Available on Android and iOS.

Have you used any of these apps? What do you think of them? Do you have any favorites of your own that you think help make your life and writing a bit easier? Share your experiences in the comments below!

7 Simple Grammar Mistakes You Should Never Make

Don't make these grammar mistakes

There’s no easier way to lose readers – and sales – than by publishing a book full of simple mistakes. After all, if you don’t care enough to catch basic errors, why should readers care about your book? Spellcheck can go a long way, but it won’t always save you from grammar mistakes that might go overlooked.

A good editor is never a bad thing if you’re serious about building your audience. But whether you’re hiring an editor or striking out on your own, you can make life easier by making sure these simple mistakes don’t pop up in your book.

Your vs You're

Your vs You’re

Your is possessive – as in, “That’s your dog.” You’re is a contraction of “you are.”

Its vs It’s

Along the same lines, its is possessive, and it’s is a contraction of “it is” (or “it has”).

Who’s vs Whose

Whose is possessive. Who’s is a contraction of “who is” or “who has.” Are you sensing a trend?

There vs their vs they're

Their vs They’re vs There

Ready to throw in a third option? Their is possessive, and they’re is a contraction of “they are.” There will cover pretty much everything else, from “There goes the bus” to “Put that box over there” to “There aren’t any cookies here.” (Note: pirates may be inclined to throw in “thar.”)

Lose vs loose

Lose vs Loose

This is best with a few examples. You can lose your dog if he gets loose from his leash. Your clothes will be loose if you lose a lot of weight. If you have loose change in your pocket, you might lose it. If all else fails, read your sentence aloud; if the word sounds like it ends with a ‘z’ then it’s lose; if it sounds like an ‘s’ then it’s loose.

Compliment vs Complement

The only difference is an ‘i’ and an ‘e’. So what’s the real difference? Compliment – with an ‘i’ – means you’re saying something nice to someone. Or, as an easy way to remember, “I am saying something nice to someone.” If you complement something, you’re adding to or improving it.

Farther vs Further

Farther refers to a physical distance – long distances are always far. “His house is farther away than mine.” Further is more figurative and means an extent of time or degree, as in “Tom wanted to talk further about the plan.” Farther and further are more readily accepted as being interchangeable than other examples in this list.

Do you have your own grammar pet peeves, or any tricks you use to keep words straight? Share them in the comments below!

Authors using Helix Review: Geoffrey Lloyd Vough

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.18.26 AMFor the next installment of our series on the Helix Review, Geoffrey Lloyd Vough, author of the historical fiction novel “Multnomah,” spoke with us about his experiences with the Helix Review.

Tell us a bit about your book:

Multnomah is the story of the events leading up to Boadicea’s revolt against the Roman occupation of Britain. The story is told to two modern-day brothers (in Oregon, at Multnomah Falls) by Yhenna, the eldest of Queen Boadicea’s two daughters.  Those were recorded to have lived, but no historian names them.  Set in the middle of the 1st century AD, and modern-day Oregon, there are three interwoven stories in Multnomah. Using her powers, Yhenna projects a sending of herself to those two brothers in order to tell at last the real history of what happened in Celtic-Britain; because history is always written by the victors. The Earth is coming up to the foretold “Shift of the Ages” and Yhenna is connected to one of the two brothers; he the one she will tell her story to because he has dreamed of writing it.  Those parts of the story are heavily driven by dialogue and are metaphysical/philosophically-oriented.  Yhenna’s own story is two-fold, part of it her discovery that at the roots of druidry is a dark secret, and that leads her to her half-brother she’s never before known or met. A gifted druid, also a wyrdcrafter, Yhenna learns that an alien power in/from Otherworld (what druidry calls Faerie) is the wellspring of the wyrdcraft which is druidry’s “magic” — a secret only those druids capable of wyrdcraft ever learn.  It a buried secret.

How would you describe your writing style?

I prefer to write realistic fiction, what’s commonly called Speculative Fiction, but I also appreciate clever fantasy elements. I think melding those, realism and history with fantasy and fiction, makes for an exciting plot. I try to write simply but complex, making for a fast paced but “packed” read.

Why did you decide to submit your book for a Helix Review?

I wanted to see the various components Helix measures for use in comparisons and the like. I felt it offered a perspective one couldn’t get from live reviewers.

What did you learn from Helix?

I felt the way I write to be “validated” some, though that’s kind of a pompous statement. I felt seeing my work in such a light gave me a unique perspective though.

How are you going to use what you learned?

I use it mostly for comparing my writing style and such to other authors/books in the genre, and out.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix?

I liked the service and would recommend it.

For more information about Geoffrey Lloyd Vough and “Multnomah,” please visit:

About the Helix Review:

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Authors using Helix Review: Jack Gunthridge

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.02.07 AMFor the next installment of our series on the Helix Review, we spoke with Jack Gunthridge, author of the romance novel “Broken Hearts Damaged Goods,” about his experiences with the Helix Review.

Tell us a bit about your book:

When Jack and Liselle find themselves having been cheated on, they decide to use each other to get over the heartache.  They would be each others rebound so that nobody else would get hurt.

How would you describe your writing style?

My writing style is very natural and conversational.  I want the readers to feel the experiences of the people in the book.  With a romance, I want the women to identify with the female lead and to fall in love with the male lead.

Why did you decide to submit your book for a Helix Review?

Since I am a male author writing romance novels, I wanted to see how I compared to the more traditionally published female authors.  I wanted to see how I was similar and how I could set myself apart.

What did you learn from Helix?

The Helix Review allowed me to see the normal range of the pacing of the genre I am working in.  Given this information, I can better determine if I am on track with other authors, or if I might want to increase my pacing.

How are you going to use what you learned?

I plan on looking at my books more and dissecting it differently than I would with normal editing where I look at spelling, grammar, punctuation, and making sure the ideas are presented clearly.  I can now look at making my works fit more into the genre.  I can also balance this with what makes me unique as a writer.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix?

It is definitely worth the money.  It lets you know where you are as an author.  Are your sentences too long?  Are they too short?  Where do you fit in with other authors?  How are you different?  It helped to answer a lot of these questions.

For more information about Jack Gunthridge and “Broken Hearts Damaged Goods,” please visit:

About the Helix Review:

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Writing the breakaway self-published book…words of wisdom from Ivory Madison

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 11.40.30 AMIvory Madison isn’t only  the RedRoom.com CEO and Editor in Chief, she is an accomplished writer and author coach with numerous years of experience.  I was fortunate enough to catch her session at the Writer’s Digest Conference in Los Angeles, where Madison shared her “Red Room Method”, which helps authors blast through writer’s block and quickly develop into razor-sharp writers.

Her opening question to the audience and what you should contemplate while reading this post: is your book as good as it can be already?

A lot of people jump the gun.

One thing learned in teaching writing is that most people are doing it wrong.  They are trying to do too many things at once…worrying about marketing, if the structure is correct, do they need an agent, etc.

The Red Room method separates what you are doing into different buckets: Writing, Editing, and Marketing and focuses on getting your book done faster, easier, and at a better quality.

Writing (words of wisdom)

  • Writing comes from passion and processing. First drafts WILL be bad…they are supposed to be. A writer should  focus on the writing ONLY at first. Stop trying to do two things at the same time, “It’s like trying to run a marathon and you keep stopping and saying ‘Oh, I got the first steps wrong’.” Your first draft has to be imperfect so that your can productively edit.
  • There is a level of self awareness that is required for writing…it is a shift of self-perspective.  Stop trying to write like a writer and write like yourself!
  • Ann Rice once said that the great thing about writing is that it can be an expression of you without any special training or access. In other less eloquent words, writing is about yourself and marketing is about everything else.
  • If your goal is to finish your book then, schedule your hours with other people. Sit down with the group and dedicate the full hour to writing. People won’t show up for appointments with only themselves. Just remember that you can’t win a Nobel Prize in an hour BUT, you can write about 1,500 words. Relish that accomplishment.
  • Quit worrying about the quality. A baby’s first few steps aren’t fantastic but, they are still wonderful.
  • Remember to not write.  Don’t forget the other things in your life and relax and don’t always worry that you should be writing. Stop torturing yourself. Enjoy the other parts of your life and let your brain process it.
  • Some people have “blocks” and only think about all the reasons they aren’t finishing their book: I don’t have enough time, money, knowledge, etc. Bottom line is you make time for what you make time for. Don’t feel like you SHOULD be writing…GO WRITE!
  • Some people believe the myths about being a writer. Remember, every brilliant, successful author was told by someone somewhere that they were terrible. Perfectionism is the opposite of high standards.  High standards means getting it done, perfectionism means never getting it done.

 

 

 

How to stay fresh when writing becomes work

When you do something professionally, whether it’s a full time gig that pays the bills or part-time work to get that walking-around money, it can become monotonous. To be honest, the odds are that it will.

In some cases, that monotony could be a welcome development. I’ve worked some pretty unfulfilling jobs where routine has provided a welcome refuge. But if you are lucky enough to be financially compensated for doing something you love, the tedium that comes from repetition is something you really have to watch out for and guard against.

I find writing to be fulfilling work, personally and professionally, and I manage a good balance of writing for myself and writing for others (now largely readers on the internet) — writing I’m compensated for and writing I’m not — but there have certainly been times when that balance has felt askew and, as a result, writing becomes not much more than work.

What to do in a situation like this? How can a writer keep their work fresh and prevent burnout? Here are three practices I’ve found that help me keep my writing personally relevant and moving in new directions.

Keeping a journal: I know it sounds like an assignment from your high school English teacher, but keeping a journal (the pen and paper kind) has allowed me an entirely reflective space for my writing. Although I write on the web and enjoy writing to be read, the opposite arrangement helps me stay sane.

Using Twitter: I thought Twitter was a pretty vapid platform initially. I mean 140 characters? Micro-blogging? My attention span is short enough as is! But the more time I spend on Twitter, the more interesting I think it is. It’s basically a super social constraint-based writing club that demands clarity and brevity and encourages experimentation.

Taking time off(line): This one is sort of the crux, but also a bit a catch-all: I write better for the internet when I take time away from it. It’s easy to get comfortable in an echo chamber, but echoes don’t make for fresh ideas. Whether it’s reading or cooking or traveling when I can, I tend to bring something back to my work when I give myself a break from the net (whatever form that takes).

Some of these things might work for you, some might not. You’ve probably got similar suggestions so let me know in the comments!

Writing and work ethic

A dear friend of mine told me the other day that she couldn’t understand how I was able to write. “I just sit down at my computer and, well, eventually I start writing,” I told her.

“No,” she said. “I mean, I don’t understand how you can make yourself do something that is so incredibly frustrating to me. I hate writing — I can’t believe you do it for fun.”

I replied, “Well, it’s not always fun.”

Because as we writers know, it isn’t always fun. Sitting down to write, there are always those “no good, very bad” days where writing isn’t something that relaxes us or even something we take pleasure in. It drives us insane. We want to do anything but write. (The Internet seems like a great place to hide from writing. Talk to any writer and they can tell you all about the most mind-numbing waste-of-time websites on the Internet and how they have spent considerable time there.)

So why do we stay writing, even as day has turned to night, a long frustrating night into another bleary-eyed morning? Why do we keep writing something that might never find a huge audience, or something we know is just going to get cut in edits?

I believe that’s where work ethic comes in, and even though only a few lucky people on this Earth get to call writing a job, there is some aspect of being a writer that demands you take it as seriously as your job. You are producing art, but you are also doing “work.”

That’s the separation between people who write opportunistically and without much labor and writers who have to sit and struggle through a piece, and toss and turn all night because wow-does-that-scene-stink. Sometimes you have to force yourself to write, just because you told yourself you would. Even if nothing good comes of it, at least you put more hours into your craft, your strange and beautiful desire to translate and work through ideas on a page.

A writer’s work-ethic comes from the knowledge that it’s not that first hour where you write your best, but that third or fourth. That moment when the words (after losing all sense from endless re-reading), begin to coalesce into something extraordinary and true. A writer’s work-ethic is knowledge that the payoff isn’t always in the moment of writing itself, or even publication, but the fact that you participated in part of a long history of a phenomenon of inward-thinking and art. It’s beautiful to be a part of, even if it’s not always fun or prosperous.

So the next time someone asks you why you write, why you can’t make an event or go out that night because you have to do it, and why you can’t just write another time,  maybe it’s best just to say, “Because I need to. Because I want to.”