Two Software Programs to Help Your Writing

Not long ago I wrote a blog on how I use a number of apps to help me find time to write. More recently, I wrote about how to tweak Microsoft Word to improve your writing. In this blog, I'm going to follow up on those two technology-related blogs and describe two software packages I use to stay productive and organized.

Shortly before my latest novel, The Last Refuge, was released, a writing colleague called me to tell me how much he enjoyed reading the advanced reading copy I'd sent him. He did, however, point out one problem. There was a certain word I overused throughout the book. I immediately corrected the problem before the book was released.

My friend recommended a software app he uses to catch such problems—͞Autocrit. I immediately researched AutoCrit but opted for a competing software program called ProWritingAid by Orpheus Technology. Both have similar capabilities to identify writing problems such as overused words, buried verbs, adverbs, grammar problems, etc. ProWritingAid, however, was quite a bit cheaper.

An online version of ProWritingAid is available to use free, but I opted to use the downloadable premium edition at the cost of $40 per year. Once downloaded and installed, ProWritingAid places an icon on the Word tool bar the way Acrobat and Endnote do. Before using it, you need to set the style of writing you do--creative, business, legal, academic, etc.

After scanning your manuscript, ProWritingAd lists the problems it found in a sidebar to the right of your screen. All similar problems are grouped together in the sidebar and color coded in both the sidebar and in your document. ProWritingAid provides advice on how to correct the problems, but it's up to you to go through your document, find the color-highlighted words, and use your own innate writing talent to clean up your copy.

It goes without saying that no software application can replace a professional editor. But programs like ProWritingAd will help you get your manuscript to a higher level of professionalism and completeness before you send it to your editor.

So now your manuscript is polished and you're ready to send it to a publisher or a magazine. Fine. But how do you keep track of when you sent it out and to whom? Many writers I know use spreadsheets to track their submissions. I used to do that myself. Now I use a submission tracking software called Sonar 3.

There are many submission trackers out there, but Sonar 3 has two outstanding qualities. One, it's free. Two, unlike other submission trackers, which are online, Sonar 3 is a full-function software package that installs on your computer and allows you to maintain a totally private database of your submissions.

Sonar 3 allows you to build a database of all publications to which you might submit your work. A pop up data entry form allows you to record the publication's name, editor, email, URL, postal address, and submission guidelines. My Sonar 3 publication database must have somewhere near a hundred markets in it now, and I keep adding new ones all the time.

Another data entry form allows you to insert details about each of your manuscripts—͞title, genre, number of words, etc. After you submit a manuscript to a publisher, you enter Sonar 3, and click the story's title. A form pops up and, using a drop down window showing all the markets in your database, you choose the publication to which you've just submitted your work. That's it.

Sonar 3's opening screen lists each of your works, whether it's under submission and when it was submitted, and whether it was returned or sold. It even lists how much you were paid.

Australian science fiction writer, Simon Haynes, is the creator of Sonar 3 and he has a host of other writing related applications at his website—͞all free. One is an app that makes sense out of those confusing sales reports Amazon provides. I haven't tried that one yet, but I will.