by Dave Kavanagh.
(Review of Scrivener, ProWritersAid & Natural Reader)
Do you use writers aids?
Writing is a difficult craft, in its essence it is about a writer producing words and then crafting those words into something unique, beautiful, useful. Our job is to engage readers. There are no apps, no software or hardware that will do the writing for you. However; there are a number of aids that will take some of the heavy lifting out of organising your work, editing, formatting and several other tasks. I want to introduce you to a few that I have personal experience of.
I am severely dyslexic and sport a swanky ADHD diagnosis so some of these pieces of kit are very important to me.
My primary writing and editing tool is Scrivener. I would find it difficult to organise my work without this wonderful piece of software which boasts a host of features, many of which I use daily and some of which I never use.
Edit Multiple Documents
“Scrivenings” mode temporarily combines individual documents into a single text, allowing you to view and edit different sections of your manuscript in isolation or as a whole.
Virtual index cards store a synopsis for every document you create. Storyboard and rearrange your project by moving cards around on the corkboard, or use the freeform mode to get your ideas down without worrying about their order.
A fully-featured outliner helps you take control of the structure of your work. Use the outliner to plan first and write later, or write first and use the outliner to make sense of that messy first draft.
Create collections to keep arbitrary lists of documents and research independent of their regular order: track documents that need attention or use Saved Search Collections to generate automatically-updated lists of related documents.
Full Screen Editing
View your text in full-screen mode for distraction-free composition.
Switch to scriptwriting mode for automatic screen- or stage play formatting—or set up your own script formats—then export to a dedicated scriptwriting program such as Final Draft. You can even mix up script formatting with regular text for writing treatments.
Taking a “snapshot” of a document allows you to edit and rewrite in the confidence that you can restore an earlier revision at any time. Compare your documents with previous drafts or compare earlier versions with each other.
Load research documents or notes into floating windows for limitless access to reference material, even in full-screen mode.
Synchronise the text of your project with many popular mobile applications for the iPad and iPhone, or collaborate easily with common file-sharing tools.
Compile for Export and Print
Compile your finished draft for printing or exporting to your favourite word processor for final formatting. Export to web or e-book formats for self-publishing. With support for footnotes and comments and the ability to reformat your work during compile, you can produce submission-ready novel manuscripts, work with academic standards, and much more.
I love this tool. It keeps all your individual works and documents together in easily managed folders. You can write premise lines, synopsis, character sketches, location plans and outlines. The cork-board is great for mapping anything from a poem to a short story or novel. The ability to split your work up into small easily to manage pieces to edit and re-write is a Godsend. Work can be organised into parts and chapters as required. The ability to jump from section to section means working on individual elements is a piece of cake. I have used Scrivener to compile a chapbook of poetry, to produce three novel drafts and to put together a collection of short stories. I highly recommend this application.
I find this to be a wonderful piece of kit. A light version of the tool is available online and would suit occasional users but if you want the heavyweight pro version you will need to pay for a license.
The pro version offers 25 individual reports.
1) The Writing Style Report
This report highlights several areas of writing that should be revised to improve readability, including passive voice, overuse of adverbs, repeated sentence starts, hidden verbs and more.
2) The Grammar Report
The Grammar Check works similarly to the spelling and grammar checkers in a word processor but presents it in a single sidebar report. ProWriterAid claim to have a team of copyeditors inputting thousands of specific checks that they have come across in their years of editing. I don’t doubt it as I find this report invaluable. Better than Gammarly by miles in my opinion.
3) The Overused Words Report
Another great report that alert you to the overuse of words of phrases, it also alerts you to words that are VAGUE, SHOW NOT TELL, WEAK WORDS, NON SPECIFIC WORDS & BAD SENTENCE CONSTRUCTION.
4) The Clichés and Redundancies Report
The name says it all.
5) The Sticky Sentence Report
A sticky sentence is one that is full of glue words. (in, of, on, the, at, if, etc.). The words that readers have to wade through to get to the meaningThe report uses a glue index and alerts you to sentences with over 40% glue.
6) The Repeats Check
Again the report name says it all. An alert of words used to often in a document.
7) The Sentence Length Report
Writing that uses varying sentence lengths keeps the reader’s brain engaged. Some should be short and punchy, others should be long and flowing. Sentence variety adds an element of music to your writing.
8) The Pronoun Report
A very useful report for editing early drafts where I, he, she are used too often.
9) The Transition Report
The Transition Report will give you a “transitions score”, based on transition words used, (words such as Similarly, Furthermore,) which is based on the percentage of sentences that contain a transition. The app recommends that you aim for a score of 25% or higher, which means that you use at least one transition word or phrase every four sentences.
10) The Consistency Check
The Consistency Check highlights inconsistency of spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation, and punctuation. Very useful for those who slip between UK English and US English. (Such as myself).
11) The Pacing Check
Good writing contains faster-paced sections, such as dialogue and character action, as well as slower-paced sections, such as introspection and backstory. Differently paced sections should complement each other, allowing the reader to move with you through the narrative.
ProWritingAid’s Pacing Check ﬁnds those areas in your writing that are paced more slowly so that you can spread them out.
12) The Dialogue Tags Check
Dialogue tags are the words that refer dialogue to a speciﬁc character. The two most common used are “said” and “asked”. This report alerts you to the overuse of these and other common tags so you can change them to descriptive or action tags to indicate the character involved in the dialogue.
13) Sensory Check (NLP Predicates Check)
Every writer has a tendency to favor one or two of their senses over the others, and this affects the way that he or she experiences the world, processes information and makes memories. When you are writing for a broad audience, you should try to write with words (primarily verbs, adverbs and adjectives) associated with all five of the senses. It will help emotionally engage with the widest range of people.
Running your writing through the Sensory Report will help you engage all five senses.
14) The Vague and Abstract Words Check
Eliminate the over use of all those (ly) words that littler bad writing. Slightly, Carefully, Joyfully. Nouns that donate something that the reader cannot picture or identify with.
An abstract noun is intangible: man is concrete and humanity is abstract, brain is concrete and thought is abstract. Abstract nouns are sometimes perfect, but they should not be used to excess as they lack specificity.
This report highlights all abstract words and shows you where to re-write.
15) The Thesaurus Check
Very handy piece of kit for obvious reasons.
16) The Diction Report
The Diction Report helps you avoid unnecessarily complicated writing by analyzing your word selection and sentence construction.
17) The Alliteration Report
Alliteration creates an enjoyable rhythm when reading, it sets a rhythm and is of course vital in poetry.
18) The Homonym Check
The sentence “He lost his patients” means something quite different from “He lost his patience”. This report will alert you to possible errors based on words that have similar sounds.
19) The Corporate Wording Report
The corporate wording report identifies places where wording can be simplified. It concentrates on words that are often found in corporate reports that make the reports harder to read and understand. It highlights the words that it finds and suggests alternatives.
20) The Acronym Check
Acronym Report highlights all of the acronyms in your text, and creates a list of all the acronyms you have used.
21) The Complex Words Check
ProWritingAid defines complex words as those with three or more syllables. It is not wrong to use complex words, but paragraphs that contain too many will be less clear.
22) The Eloquence Check
This report was designed to help you develop your use of stylistic writing techniques such as alliteration, epistrophe, and hendiadys. The items in this report are not suggestions, just aids to help you along the way. Wonderful addition to a poetry writer.
23) The Combo Check
The Combo Report is a customizable feature that allows you to choose your favorite reports and run them simultaneously. I love this feature.
24) The House Style Check
You can create your own House Style Check to look for specific issues relating to your style. For example, if you want to make sure that the word “Director” is always capitalized in your reports, you can create your own rule in the software that will flag it anytime it is in lower case.
25) The Plagiarism Report
Plagiarism checker is designed to help you detect unoriginal content in your writing. Once you have detected unoriginal content you will be able to add proper citations to your document. Plagiarism is a major concern for many people, especially those writing academic works.
I can not recommend this application highly enough.
My View: Incredible piece of kit that will benefit any writer. What I like about it is that it is geared up for fiction and poetry writers and makes the task of editing and line editing less of a chore.
The final piece of kit I use every day is Natural Reader.
This is a very simple piece of kit and can be accessed online in a limited fashion but to get maximum use from it I suggest the premium application. I use this application not only to listen to my written words being read but I use the editor as well when I hear a sentence that needs changing. As a dyslexic this piece of kit is very useful for me, I will miss things when I scan them visually but with Natural Reader I will identify them immediately and can edit as I listen.
My View: Ok so this is not Laurence Olivier or Sean Connery reading your work, the voices (you have a choice of two in the Premium Version) are monotonous and emotionless BUT listening to your work line by line is a great way to check for glitches. Discordant phrases and sentences are easy to identify. As a dyslexic this is a very important piece of kit for me but even for non-dyslexic writers I can see obvious benefits in using this.
I hope this article was of some use to you. Please comment below and tell us about Apps you use, or better still send us a feature article listing your favourite gadgets and gizmos and the features that work for you.
Have a great writing week.