Free Writing Assistance

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This is how I imagine Cinnamon, my golden retriever, is when left alone with my work-in-progress.

Sometimes my grammar stinks.

There. I admitted it. No matter how hard I strive for flawless grammar, sometimes I goof. I might confuse which with that, end a sentence in a preposition, or the very worst thing ever – use passive voice.

I know, right? Every time this happens I cringe. Every freaking time.

Why can I spot flaws in other’s writing but miss it in mine? WHY is that?! It drives me nuts!

Writers need thick skin. In a perfect world, writers would sport the skin of a rhinoceros or crocodile. In reality, writers sport the skin of a Giant Day Gecko, fragile and easily torn.

When I first co-founded The Mountain Scribes, a writing group serving West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, I had a bad habit of submitting my first draft for critique from other members.

Boy was that a rotten idea! I quickly learned to read through and fix as many mistakes as I could before submitting to the group.

Thankfully friends like author Laura Emmons, who I met through my local NaNoWriMo group, suggested tools that helped them polish up their literary works. Here are my top three free, cloud-based editors, and best of all, they’re free!

  1. Hemingway App – The Hemingway Editor not only polishes up your writing, but it also allows you to format the text, import text from MS Word files, and export it as HTML right to your blog.
  2. After the Deadline – This was the first service I used. It’s also cloud-based but unlike the other two apps listed here, it only offers the bare basics. The one thing it does better than the others, in my humblest opinion, is find passive voice. It may hate passive voice more than I do.
  3. ProWritingAid – While you can get a premium membership, the free service reviews up to 3k words at a time, giving you 19 different reports in return. The reports range from diction checks to sticky sentences to overused words and a lot more.

Have you ever used these apps? Are there any in this list you haven’t used? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

5 Offbeat News Headlines and How Authors Can Use Them

Some of the most curious headlines are listed in MSN Offbeat News. This is my favorite section because these headlines inspire the most unique characters for my books. Here are seven recent selections and how I might choose to use them in a book.

1. Pranksters Block Road with 25-foot Triceratops
The Treasure Pines senior class prank involved blocking main street with the rival high school’s mascot, a 25-foot fiberglass triceratops. The problem is the next morning when the principal of Treasure Pines High is found impaled on one of the animal’s steel horns.

2. Someone Actually Came Up with a Breakup Cake
When Grandma Opal’s boyfriend dumps her for the newcomer at bingo, she fuels her angst into a new home-based bakery business offering cakes for offbeat life situations.

3. Rescue Dog Raises a Paw, Gets Sworn in as Mayor of Reno
Harvey Wallbanger, the town’s favorite golden retriever, helps find the mayor’s missing toddler granddaughter. To show her thanks, the mayor swears him in as mayor-for-a-day.

4. N.J. Mailman Locks Himself in Truck as Wild Turkeys Attack
A flock of wild turkeys has become a menace in Treasure Pines. When they chase the mailman into his truck, nobody expects to find his corpse there several hours later, with an ace of spades playing card taped to his forehead.

5. Just 2 Protesters Show up for anti-Beyoncé Rally
Two new families move to Treasure Pines and agree the high school students would benefit from a dress code–complete with uniforms! Unfortunately they’re the only two who show up at school to picket on Meet the Teacher night.

Another great source of odd bits of information is Mental Floss. Here are five articles I recently enjoyed reading on the site:

What are some of your favorite offbeat headlines? Do you have any sites like Mental Floss bookmarked that you use as a reference? Let’s chat about it in the comments section!