Monday, October 7, 2013

10 New Tools No Writer Should Be Without

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of knocking out that first draft.  The storyline is tight, the characters fresh, and the plot compelling.  But there’s also nothing quite like the first proofread, when you confront your own sallow, grammar-free, meandering prose.

Rewriting is half the battle, more than one writer has noted.  But recently I’ve discovered ten new apps that make rewriting much easier:

1) Dwindle – this is one of my favorites.  Dwindle scrubs through your pages looking for redundancy, excessive verbosity, and all manner of unnecessary words.  For example, here’s an excerpt from my new mystery Lady Agatha & The Nine Cumberbunds:

“Agatha approached the cruller like a bear would, if a bear had a cruller.  She circled it twice, then moved in.  The cruller didn’t stand a chance.  Within seconds it was diminished by a third, then another third, then a couple of sixths until it was nothing but crumbs and memories.  Agatha devoured the former and cherished the latter.”

Here’s what the sentence looked like after Dwindle was through with it:  “She ate a cruller.”  It’s much cleaner.

2) BORK – this app is great for anyone writing legal mysteries, or anything involving courtrooms, lawyers, judges, etc.  BORK ensures that your legal prose stays honest.  Here’s a report they sent me after I submitted my first few dozen chapters:

By chapter eleven, Judge Tingle has already sentenced six people to death; four for carjacking, one for besmirchin’ Lady Agatha’s good name, and one for the aquarium massacre.  But because the only victims of the massacre were six clams and an octopus, it seems unlikely that the death sentence would be applied.

3) NyPL – by far the best sex-scene manager I have used.   Writing complex romantic interludes requires both imagination and attention to detail.  And it’s easy to screw up.  NyPL keeps your naughty parts honest.  Here’s what they had to say about one of my early chapters:

A structural error has been identified in the third orgy, on page 23.  Given the relative positions of Agatha, Enrique, Princess Tina, and the UPS driver on the boathouse futon, the only toes available for Lady Agatha to nibble on would have been her own.  Please revise.

4) ImbiBr – this one is a must for those who write hardboiled detectives or any characters who drink a little too much from time to time.  ImbiBr ensures that your characters are drinking realistic amounts of alcohol.  And this is important.  I’ve seen a lot of writers get in trouble here, myself included.  Here’s what they said about chapter nine:

Within a seven-hour period, following the deaths of Enrique and the octopus, Lady Agatha drinks eleven vodka martinis, four liters of gin, and a Budweiser.  If Lady Agatha weighs 190 pounds, as chapter eight suggests, she has already consumed too much alcohol for life to be sustained. 

I’m glad they caught that. 

5) PetScrub – too often, mystery prose becomes laden with references to pets.  Nobody enjoys reading this, so PetScrub catches these irritating passages before your reader does.  For example, here’s a passage from chapter twelve:

Princess Tina smiled as Captain Woofers McPuddle bounced up onto her lap, his long whiskers caressing her cheek as his giant velveteen paws grasped for purchase.
            “Who’s my favorite beasty?” Tina asked rhetorically as Woofers settled in for some well-deserved cuddling.

Here’s what PetScrub came back with:  Please remove this entire offensive passage.

6) Ghast – this app is a must for any horror writer, or for anyone who wants to incorporate a bit of the supernatural in their work.  Ghast will alert you right away if your scary prose falls flat.

Here’s what Ghast had to say about chapter fifteen:  The chance of both Enrique and the octopus being turned into zombies is slim.  Also, Enrique only has one leg, and the octopus is an octopus, so why would Lady Agatha flee to the boathouse?  It’s not scary.  Consider revising this whole section.  Although a zombie octopus is a novel concept, it is not a good one.

7) BakStory – too often we get caught up in the moment, so BakStory fills in the gaps when a character has not been effectively introduced.  Here’s a passage from chapter nineteen that I thought was very good:

            “Take me,” Lady Agatha purred as she let her kimono fall to the kitchen floor.
            “Yes, ma’am,” said the UPS driver as he scanned her with his hand-held unit.  “Special delivery guaranteed!”

BackStory took issue with the passage, reworking the entire second line: 

“Take me,” Lady Agatha purred as she let her kimono fall to the kitchen floor.
            “Yes, ma’am,” said the UPS driver, who originally hailed from Oswego, the son of Belgian immigrants fed up with substandard public housing, as he scanned her with his hand-held unit.  “Special delivery guaranteed!”

8) GunDork – this all-important app will scrub through all your firearm passages to make sure you aren’t committing any logistical or second amendment errors. 

Here’s what they told me about a scene in chapter twenty: Since Lady Agatha is naked in the kitchen, it seems unlikely that she would be able to produce a derringer “from her folds” as well as a crossbow from “parts unknown.”  It is also unlikely that she would then “fire wildly, again and again, and yet again, hither and nither, as the octopus neared.”  First – neither a derringer nor a crossbow can be fired again and again and again without reloading.  Second – nither isn’t a word.  And third – crossbows aren’t firearms.  For help with crossbow-related scenes, please consult BoltMaestro.

9) RoofingTile – this actually has nothing to do with writing, but it’s a great app for comparing roofing tiles if you find yourself in the market.

10) PUUUKR – no writer should be without this kissing app.  PUUUKR takes even the messiest make-out scenes and cleans them up.  Here’s a section from chapter thirty, just after the second aquarium massacre.  Princess Tina is overcome with emotion.

            “I don’t care,” she sobbed.  “I love you.”
            Enrique shuffled near.  “It could never work,” he gurgled.  “I’m a zombie.”
            “Shhhh.” Princess Tina pressed Enrique’s finger to his lips, snapping it off in the process.  Then she kissed him deeply, fervently, hungrily, and mightily.  Her lips thrilled him as they moved from ear to ear, her tongue darting from his chin to his eyebrow.

Nice, right?  Here’s what PUUUKR had to say: Good Christ, this is disgusting.  What? Is she eating him?  Isn’t he the zombie?  Also, where’s the finger that broke off?  Is it still in there somewhere?  Barf.

These are just ten new writing tools out there designed to make our writing lives easier.  If you’d like to learn more, please visit

And please have a look at my new serialized novel Continent Incontinent.

two powerful families
three dreams of territorial expansion
four failing bladders

Chapter One is out now at



Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, I say, hum.

Liane Spicer said...

Lol! Lol! Rofl! William, you're a scream!

Carol Mitchell said...

Hilarious. I think that I can definitely use one or two of these.

William Doonan said...

Thanks guys! I'm having one of those failure-of-prespective moments that we writers sometimes get. I wanted to write a really fun post, and I think I did. And I publicized it nineteen times on Twitter, on Facebook, on other accounts, and to the Oak Tree Press author list. And all I got were 44 views. That's depressing. Maybe I should do something else with my life, like macrame or ping pong.

seabgb said...

Damn, this is funny, with a bit of sarcasm and wiritng nuance mixed in, too. People take their writing "tools" way too seriously. So many gimmicks. Best thing to do is just write, write, write...and read, read, read. That said, I designed a writing app that's really good if you need to check your novel for fleas.

William Doonan said...

Thanks, Seabgb. You should check out TICKr - it cleans the ticks right out of a manuscript. Might pick up the fleas along the way!

Liane Spicer said...

Macrame or ping pong, William? I absolutely forbid it. Some of us enjoy your sense of humor too much for that.

Those Twitter/Facebook etc. people who didn't follow up are missing out. The problem, I suspect, is not lack of interest but all the competing noise on the networks.

William Doonan said...

Thanks, Liane. OK, I'll put away my yarn and paddles for now.

Augie said...

William, this was fantastic, you're hilarious I love the zombie she didn't turn huh what a lady (lol) augie

William Doonan said...

Thanks, Augie! You made my day.