Software Review: WhiteSmoke

Though I’m just getting around to writing the review for WhiteSmoke, it was actually one of the first pieces of software I tried. The software is a downloadable program. However, it does require an internet connection.The description from their website:

The General Version of WhiteSmoke Writer 2010+ features the full grammar and spelling correction engines, and text enhancement for general writing purposes. For writers of all skill levels, the General Version is the first stop on the way to clear and correct texts.

I spent quite a bit of time with this program. WhiteSmoke worked much like the spell/grammar check available in MS Word but included additional features to catch oddities such as misused words and better word choices. Not a bad program to substitute in place of MS Word.

HOWEVER, my experience with WhiteSmoke gave me the impression it was designed for non-fiction writing rather than creative writing. The suggestions were very formal and not always accurate (like MS Word). If I needed help for a term, business, or technical paper, I might settle for WhiteSmoke. It might not even be bad for blogging. 🙂

Since my focus is creative writing, WhiteSmoke is a bit less useful. Doesn’t mean WhiteSmoke is a bad program. It just seems better suited for the non-fiction niche. Anyway, don’t just take my word on it. Try it for yourself. WhiteSmoke offers a 7 day trial.

For those who need something for creative writing, you might try AutoCrit. And of course, you’re welcome to my perspective, if you’re looking for Autocrit reviews.

What’s the Big Wooha with Critiques?

When I started writing, I’d never heard of a critique group or partner. I just wrote. I wasn’t sure if my writing was decent or not. It bothered me. My husband was not a big reader, and having my young daughters (both avid readers) read the erotic romances I wrote just didn’t seem all too appealing. I did a bit of research and found the concept of critters. After some time, I finally joined a critique group.

My original purpose of joining a critique group was to receive help with my writing. I wanted to know if my writing was rockin’ or not. I thought critiquing the work of others was just a chore I’d have to do in order to reap the benefits of having others review my work. The help I’ve received from critters reviewing my work has been awesome! As a new writer, they pointed out issues which never even crossed my mind. However, there are so many other benefits to critiquing than just receiving a critique.

One advice I’ve found time and time again is to read, read, read the genre you write. It gives you an opportunity to see different styles of writing. Same thing with critiquing. Reading another individual’s work gives you as an author the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. As you point out awkward issues in another person’s writing, you might also find similarities in your own work. If nothing else, it might help you avoid making those same mistakes while drafting.

Don’t just stop at giving and receiving critiques. Take time to check out the critiques of others. Use it as a learning experience. After I critique a work, I find it particularly helpful to read other critiques on the same piece of work. Sometimes critters point out issues I overlooked or didn’t realize was problematic because of my lack of experience.

My encounters with other critters has been invaluable in my ongoing commitment to learn the trade. If you don’t have a critique partner or group, I highly suggest finding one. Friends and family are great for building up the ego (usually), but they may not have the qualifications or gumption to offer a real assessment of your work.

Keep in mind, critiquing is subjective. Critters come with various knowledge bases, experiences, and tastes–just like readers. Keep or trash whatever works while taking advantage of the diversity.

A couple of critique groups I’ve used and enjoyed are RWCcritique and Scribophile. Please feel free to comment on critique groups you’ve used and value.

Do Your Lips Move When You Edit?

This is just a short post. I’ve been pressed for time and dead beat. 🙂

So I ask you. As a writer, do your lips move when you edit? No? Well, maybe it’s time to change your methods.

This week I rediscovered The Art of Reading Aloud. 🙂 I kinda like that title.

Anyway, I do most of my edits in silence. Shame. Shame. For me, silent edits are similar to skimming a book. I can catch a few of the errors, but quite a bit slips past. But reading out loud is a whole other story. I find so many mistakes when I hear what I read. For one, reading aloud forces me to slow down. No longer the silent skimmer, I articulate each word. Yes it’s time consuming but well worth the efforts when it comes to readability, flow, and style.

So if your lips don’t move while you edit, give it a try. Be your own critter and force those critique partners to work hard to find asinine issues with your work.

Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Rejection

Rejection. I’ve had more rejections since I started writing than I’ve had most of my life. It started with critters, then literary agents, the publishers. Rinse and repeat as I revised my work umpteenth times. As an aspiring writer looking for publication, it can be a way of life. That big break is always over the horizon…just out of reach, but one day…one day…or not.

Writing with rejection on my mind is the worst for my muse. For me, it saps my motivation and leads me to develop characters/scenes/stories which aren’t true and dear to me. Constantly changing this and that to meet the demands of the subjective audience with the hope someone…just someone might love it the way I loved it when I first typed the words on the screen. In the end, I’m left with one big mess of wishy washy characters, a story arc which falls flat, a novel I can’t stand to read, and absolutely no desire to write another. Cause really…what’s the point if I can’t get it published anyway?

FULL STOP

Yes, publishing is a goal for many authors, including me, but it didn’t start out that way. Remember why you first started writing. I know my original goal for writing wasn’t to get published. I had a story. I wanted to tell it. I had the time to write it. And I so I did–A big accomplishment for me.  85k words later I held my completed manuscript, full of pride. I wrote a full length novel! I didn’t know anyone in my little world who could say that. Then I thought…hmmm I wonder if I could get it published.

I did a little research, learned about critters, sent it for critiques and had my bubble burst. What I heard, not necessary what they said was, I did nothing right. I started the story in the wrong place, they hated my characters, and my writing style was boring.

Then came the thoughts, maybe I’m not a writer. It took a while for me to realize hey, I wrote a novel. The writing wasn’t the greatest, but I did it. I didn’t do it for the critters, I did it for me. I did it because I wanted to do it. I don’t have to write to put bacon on the table. And from what I hear, most writers have day jobs, including published writers. I had to ground myself back into reality. Polishing the work is a bonus. Finding an agent is a bonus. Publishing is a bonus. Writing a story I want to tell and read is a joy.

I am a writer, and that is why I write.

People, I’m talking to you Mister/Miss Author, you don’t need affirmation to keep writing. You didn’t need anyone’s permission when you put your first words to paper. Why do you need them now? You may or may not get published. Then again, you may or may not win the lottery. Who cares? Just write the best story you can. Continue to do your research. And remember why you first started writing.

“Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love [Write] like you’ve never been hurt and live like it’s heaven on Earth.”

Thank you, Mark Twain.