Grammarly et al

I’ve fallen in love with Grammarly, an app extension of Google Chrome but also available in Windows. It seems to work really well and monitors your use of grammar and spelling, even on those websites which don’t normally spell check for you. (Something I have found to be essential in recent years). On initial set-up, you advise it to use either UK English or the USA English dictionary, alleviating a source of irritation that most spell checkers present to UK writers.

The added bonus is that it checks the grammar too, so the occasional incorrect word use is highlighted immediately. In effect, it’s doing a form of first line proofreading for you.

It’s available to use in its free version but enhanced features are added if you subscribe  to the Premium, where it monitors many more areas of your text including sentence structure and writing style issues.

Have a look at the website https://app.grammarly.com/

I think you may like it too (No I’m not on commission)

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Words

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
Rudyard Kipling

I don’t know about you but, all my life, I’ve been plagued by certain words which I have trouble spelling. I have never been able to spell ‘restaurant’ at first go. I don’t know why but it always bugs me and I either have to look it up or use the spell checker. I get the ‘a’ and ‘u’ in the wrong place or miss them all together. Another word is ‘definitely’ which I seem to want to put an ‘a’ in. Or it comes out as defiantly. I have seen others who make this particular mistake.

I know that most of us mistake the ‘there, their and they’re’ sometimes but I usually correct that in the editing stage. (I hope).  Most of us realise the difference in UK and US dictionary words. (realize)

I find it quite annoying, though, when I find errors in a books or magazine stories. Something that has managed to get past the editors and proofreaders which seems to jump off the page at me. Having read some of the self-published e-books I find that mistakes are commonplace and really good stories can, for me, be spoiled by a lack of concentration. I don’t blame the writer as we are all guilty of reading what we think is there, especially when we’ve written it and our brain knows what should be written. Perhaps employing a proof reader would help in these circumstances but it’s easy to judge.

Do you have any words that trip you up constantly?

NaNoWriMo First Week

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Well after commencing writing last Sunday morning I’ve written almost 18,000 words so I’m pretty pleased with that. I’ve averaged about 2,500 words per day, lifting me above the minimum 1,667 target. This gives me some breathing space, should I need it. The story is going pretty well too, although I am confident of getting my 50,000 words before the end of November I don’t think the novel’s first draft will be completed as my characters seem to have a lot to say at the moment. They are currently establishing their true personalities, one of the most exciting parts of writing, for me. It’s when they begin to speak and act for themselves and the two dimensional character sketches take on a life and become three dimensional.

I’ve often wondered if it’s the same for other writers. Do they know exactly what will happen in their story or are they like me, having an idea which is subject to change as the plot and characters begin to take shape. Did Thomas Hardy know exactly what would happen to Tess before he began writing his classic or did she tell him what to write? Most of us will never write a best seller, in fact, lots of prospective best sellers never get from the authors hands and are never seen by anyone except the writer themselves. For me, as I’ve said many times before, it’s about the writing process. The immersion in something which takes over and writes the twists and turns itself. Having said that if there are any agents or publishers out there that want to offer me a book deal I’d be willing to share my work with them 🙂

Happy writing and good luck as the month progresses to all other NaNoWriMo’s.

Writing Time

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
Thomas Mann

I know this is different for different people but I always find that I write better stuff and I am much more productive in a morning. I suppose you could call me a ‘Morning person’ anyway but I have developed a routine which leaves me with free time to do ‘normal’ things, like reading, socialising and chores.

As I no longer work I am more in control of planning my day, which makes writing time easier to allocate. I normally wake around 7.30 and the first thing is to get a coffee. Whilst drinking this I fire up my laptop and check emails and social media. Three of four mornings a week I spend thirty minutes or so on my exercise bike and then it’s into the shower and dress and my day begins proper. I then enjoy a couple of hours of planning, thinking of ideas and writing. Sometimes I edit whatever I wrote the day before too. I have made a vow, to myself, that I’ll write something every day and, so far, I’ve managed that.

After lunch I probably read for an hour or so. I might write some more if I don’t have anything pressing to do. I no longer write during the evening, I spend time with my wife, have dinner or we go out. I always have Google Keep on my phone so if I get some inspiration I can jot it down, as none of know when that’s going to happen.

Over the past few weeks I have found that my brain is expecting me to write at this time and, for me, it really works. Writing has begun to be a habit; a good habit. I no longer feel that I have to grab a few minutes here and there as I did when working. So there are some advantages to getting old.

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
John Steinbeck

A Map as Your Muse – Writing 101 – Day 18

atozleedsThe steady rhythm of the windscreen wipers trying to dissipate the water was deafening in the angry silence that followed their row. Danny drove on and Sarah glared at the crumpled page of the A to Zed in her hand, trying to decipher exactly where they were. The streets were deserted in the heavy rain and the yellow glow of the street lamps was shrouded in mist, making it impossible to read the names of the roads they were travelling along.

If you would’ve let me buy that Sat-Nav’, like I wanted to, we wouldn’t be in this mess” he said, his temper abating somewhat. Sarah ignored him and stared through the murk.

Everyone has them. Nobody bothers with stupid maps any more. We live in an electronic age now. It’s a paperless society”.

Shaking her head slowly, she glared at her husband as he searched for some clue to their whereabouts.

Goodwin Street” he shouted. “We’re on Goodwin Street; see if you can find it”?

She scanned the fine print of the index. “G-a, g-e, g-i, g-o” she went through her alphabet aloud. He found it annoying but stayed silent. Goodwin Street fell behind them as he crawled past the next junction with another unnamed road.

After several minutes a white van sped past them and narrowly missed the front of their car as the driver cut in too quickly.

Idiot” Danny shouted to the fast disappearing van. Sarah continued looking for Goodwin Street, without success.

Marshall Terrace” he called out excitedly and she, once again, began the process of following the index with her finger and calling out the letters of the alphabet as she passed them. The rainfall continued, turning the road into a river. They approached a small supermarket, it’s lights bright in the gloom and he stopped the car outside. Danny went inside and approached the counter where a disinterested young girl was sat looking at her phone. She ignored him.

Excuse me” said Danny but the girl still refused to lift her head from the phone. Just then the bell chimed as another customer entered the shop. The girl looked over and smiled at the boy who came in. He walked up to the counter and stepped in front of Danny.

Hey, I was first” said Danny but both youngsters totally ignored his protestations. The girl passed the youth twenty cigarettes which he pocketed and winked at her. He turned and headed for the door.

Be careful, it’s the anniversary of the crash.” She called. “The one with that couple, who drove into the river and drowned”.

He turned and laughed “Yes I remember, she was found holding an A to Zed. It wouldn’t happen today. Not with Sat-Nav’s everywhere.

Getting Geared Up

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Well it’s almost here, November 1st. I’ve got my story planned, characters profiled. (Well, as much as I can before I start writing) Everything is set up in Scrivener. I’ve even done scene descriptions for the first two chapters. My wife is very supportive and understands I’ll be pounding the keys more than normal. So I’m all ready to rock and then-

I’ve just found out I now have to travel 270 miles for a meeting on the 31st October then spend most of that day in a meeting. Then I spend the next morning (1st of November) in same meeting and have to return 270 miles home. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of writing time in that scenario so I may have to miss the first day altogether, which is very frustrating. Sadly I can’t get out of the meeting, so it looks like I’ll be playing catch-up even before I start.

I suppose this is the price we pay for working full-time and writing in the times between eating, sleeping and generally having a life. It’s a juggle I know but I’m really determined to reach the 50,000 words by the end of November, even though I’ll immediately lose a day.

See you at the other end and good luck to everyone else who’s joining me.

Does Blogging Help or Hinder?

I often wonder to myself whether the time I spend reading blogs and posting on my own blog fuel procrastination. It’s easy to get sidetracked and find that the hour you have dedicated to writing has gone. Many writers extol the virtue of reading as many other writers as you can find the time for, so you can examine all the different styles they use. Reading allows you to hear the ‘voice’ of the characters in the story and I love to read. The problem is, how much time should be spent on this ‘research’. It makes me begin to think that reading and blogging may interfere with the writing process. A bit like emails stop you working, following blogs and reading interesting posts can make the available time disappear in an instant.

I suppose the other voice in my head asks “If I don’t read other people’s blogs no-one will read mine. So what’s the point of writing a blog?” Also how insular would I become if I didn’t read other points of view? I can put my views down and I can ask questions of others but if the inhabitants of cyberworld don’t visit sometimes it’s as pointless as writing a shopping list and leaving it at home. For me, it’s also a break from what I’m writing to be reassured that there are some like-minded people out there. Some of them struggling with the same things I do.

So I think I’ll continue in my endless time juggle and give up something else instead. Like sleeping or eating.

What do you do without to write?