Better writing through apps?

As loyal readers of this blog know, we sometimes have trouble coming up with topics for posts. And when we’re in the weeds, we often fall back on the Huffpost for a reading list or slideshow to provide a topic. You may note, too, that these posts usually get the “fun” tag, because they tend to be a little frivolous–though I guess “Ten Books to Survive Downton Abbey Withdrawal” might be considered vital “advice” to some…

But today I saw a Huffpost that actually got me thinking, both about the writing process and the role of technology in writing today. To me, the idea that apps can help you finish your novel at first seems counterintuitive–surely a major undertaking like a novel can’t be aided by rinky-dink phone apps? Yet the suggestions here seem pretty darn helpful, and partly because they seem ancillary to the main project, rather than tools that are embedded in your word processor.

Certainly the reading apps are no great revelation for most writers, and a voice memo app seems like a no-brainer. But Evernote and MindNode are far superior tools than the basic memo tool on my old iPhone, and has anyone used Poetreat yet? It seems like a great way to vary your word choice, which can often be a challenge, especially in early drafts.

Most impressive to me, though, is Hemingway, which has the potential to serve as your very own digital copyeditor. Often, when I send edits to an author, I ask them to do Global searches for words that get overused, like “Then”, or adverbs or repeated sentence structures like three or more “I verb” sentences in a row. I’ve always thought it’s a good, schematic way to go over a draft, but it can definitely get tedious. Hemingway seems like a great tool for that kind of analysis without having to spend hours doing individual word and phrase searches.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the Huffpost without a little bit of fluff–or cats, which I guess is why they mention Write or Die. Silliness aside, though, procrastination and adhering to daily word counts are certainly struggles that writers know well, and for that SelfControl does seem like a good choice for blocking those pesky distracting websites like… oh, I don’t know… maybe the Huffpost?

Have you ever used any of these apps to help finish a novel? Or any other apps? If so, which ones? 


3 Responses to Better writing through apps?

  1. D. C. DaCosta says:

    IMHO, a book worth reading is worth reading because:
    a. the author has something of interest or importance to impart
    b. the author has the talent to communicate his ideas effectively

    Apps, editing programs, and even spellcheck are no substitute for “b”.

    Either you know how to write or you don’t. If you don’t, either hire someone who does or get out of the way so that MY books can get out there.

    • Kevin A. Lewis says:

      Intense micro-editing of the sort we’re talking about here always reminds me of the Colorado prospector in the 1850’s who supposedly complained that “The gold in these parts would be a lot easier to find if all this goddamn SILVER wasn’t in the way!!!” Great reply, D.C., as always………..

  2. Anonymous says:

    The fact that the Hemingway app might be a useful way of weeding out repetitions in your ms is – unintentionally or not – highly ironic. In ‘Farewell My Lovely’ somebody asks Marlowe who Hemingway is. Marlowe replies – ‘A guy that keeps saying the same thing over and over until you begin to believe it must be good.’

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