There’s an App for That by Judith Couchman

Recently I ate lunch with Heather, a former coaching client who became a friend. She talked about an app that helps her learn to write better, catching mistakes and suggesting ways to improve. I recognized Heather’s sincere desire to write well, and that impressed me. Many writers new to the craft want to skip over writing principles and dart straight to publishing and social networking.

Heather felt so excited about this method for improving her manuscript, I couldn’t help but absorb her enthusiasm. Later at home, online I researched writing apps. After typing “Writing Apps” into my browser, the results surprised me. Although apps exist for brainstorming, collaborating, planning, organizing, outlining, reading, and timing writing, not many help an aspiring author actually write well.

As a result, below I’ve listed some apps that help with writing and editing your work. Most likely, more apps exist because I didn’t research deeply. Consider this a “starter list” for apps that might meet your needs. I’ve provided website links so you can learn more. Most are free. Check whether an app operates on your phone, tablet, or desktop.

  • EditMinion. Edits a manuscript a few pages at a time, checking for mistakes, including clichés. Free. http://editminion.com
  • Grammarly. This app does what the name implies: it checks a manuscript for grammar, suggesting the correct wording. Free. grammarly.com
  • Hemingway App. Heather enthused about this app. It aims to simplify, tighten, and strengthen prose in the tradition of the famous writer. $19.99 hemingwayapp.com/desktop
  • Merriam-Webster. Every writer needs a dictionary. This one includes voice searches. Free. https://www.merriam-webster.com/apps
  • ProWriting Aid. ProWriting Aid not only identifies and corrects problems, but it also explains, in detail, why you need to change something. And how to do it. Free for basic; $40 for premium. prowritingaid.com
  • Scrivener. A versatile writing app that helps with many formats: articles, books, blogs, podcasts, speeches and more. $40-45. writersstore.com/scrivener

If you’ve found another app that improves writing, please inform us in the comments section below. Thanks!

Judith Couchman is an author, speaker, university professor, and occasional writing coach. Learn more about her at www.judithcouchman.com

 

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On a Sunday afternoon, I moaned about my writing career to my best friend Nancy. While we washed dishes, I complained, “I’ve worked hard and published a lot, but I’m not well-known and am financially challenged. I love what I do, but sometimes I feel like a failure.”
      Nancy turned to me, a dish in hand, and said, “That’s totally beside the point. You’re using your gifting. It’s not about the fame or money. It’s about doing the work.”
      Nancy knows. She’s a lifetime pianist and her husband works as a composer. To keep afloat, they both teach part time, but the couple’s chief passion is their own musicianship. They live among creatives in their city: actors, dancers, musicians, writers, and others. Most of them work in obscurity, compared to our culture’s definition of success.
      From that conversation I evaluated: As a writer, what is my definition of success? How do I look at failure? Should I keep taking risks?
Typically, during January we dream dreams, create goals, and plan schedules. We hope for, pray for, and expect success. It’s natural to want our best efforts to succeed. But what if we don’t reach those goals? Keep those schedules? Fail to publish a manuscript? Or market a book that doesn’t sell? What if our writing career doesn’t progress as planned?
      Maybe Nancy’s insistent belief can help. A writing ministry is about the work God gifted us to do. For Christians, success is following His calling, not the world’s definition of accomplishment. Whatever happens, we’re successful if we follow God’s path for us. Failure doesn’t exist. How much income we earn isn’t a measure of obedience. Risk isn’t as scary as it seems. We’re in the hands of a Father who delights in our desire to serve Him, to gratefully enjoy the gifts He gave us.
       The teacher Oswald Chambers wrote, “Our spiritual life cannot be measured by success as the world measures it, but only by what God pours through usand we cannot measure that at all.” That includes our writing, too.
 
As a writer, Judith Couchman has traditionally published 44 works. She also works as a writing coach and an adjunct university professor, teaching art history. Learn more about her at www.judithcouchman.com.

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This time of year we’re consumed with purchasing, wrapping, and giving gifts. We stretch our budgets, schedules, and sanity to position piles of colorful boxes and bags underneath glittery trees. And if we’re honest, we wonder about gifts we’ll receive. Will they be anything we want and like?

As writers, in between we struggle to put words on paper and meet deadlines, wondering and worrying if we’ll finish everything on time. Why did we agree to write during Christmastime, anyway? Why push ourselves through this?

Because we’ve been handed a remarkable gift. A gift from God.

Midst the stress, we can calm our souls and reflect on what these writers say about His gift of writing.

  • Writing is a gift from God. “I write because writing is the gift God has given me to help people in the world.”—Anne Lamott
  • Writing is a privileged gift. “And what, do you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.”—Ray Bradbury
  • Writing is a gift to yourself. “Writing is an extreme privilege, but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.”—Amy Tan
  • Writing is a gift to others. “View your work as a gift to the world—as a bridge built to create connection or a door opened wide through which others might pass. Pour your heart into it, knowing you might make a difference in someone’s life.”—Ann Kroeker
  • Writing is a gift back to God. “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”—Leo Buscaglia

We can pause with gratitude for the gift of writing because “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”—James 1:17

Judith Couchman is a writer, writing coach, and professor who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She’s traditionally published more than 42 books, Bible studies, and compilations. Learn more about her writing at www.judithcouchman.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Turns out, Shakespeare stole his play Othello from another author. I just read a blog that insists: “A little-known Italian novelist and poet named Giovanni Battista Geraldi, also known as Cinthio, wrote a short story in 1565 titled Un Capitano Moro, which historians have noticed shares certain elements with Shakespeare’s Othello. Which elements, you ask? Oh, nothing major; just the plot, characters, certain names, setting, and moral. Cinthio’s version of the story is so similar to Shakespeare’s acclaimed play that we’re surprised Shakespeare even bothered to change the title before ripping it [off].”

In an era of no copyright laws, Shakespeare stole from other works, too. Even the beloved Romeo and Juliet.

shakespeare

The bard exposes questions writers bump into sooner or later: “What if somebody else publishes my idea? What can I do about this?” More likely, the questions should be: ” How can I accept that I don’t solely own my ideas? How can I adjust to an idea overlap and move on gracefully?” These insights help me with the proliferation of ideas in publishing.

No new ideas exist. A few thousand years ago the author of Ecclesiastes lamented, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (1:9). He also observed, “Of making many books there is no end” (12:12). He observed that ideas and events keep repeating themselves; that everything is a derivation of something preceding it. If the ancient writer observed this pattern, how would he feel today? In the speeding electronic age, it’s impossible to possess a completely original idea. We can only mark the idea with our unique viewpoint and presentation, faithfully following God’s call to write.

You can’t copyright an idea. No matter how creative your book, blog, study, or article idea, it can’t be copyrighted. That’s the same for titles. (Note the repetition of exact or similar titles on amazon.com.) You can only copyright the contents of your completed work. So until you finish the manuscript, anyone can unknowingly publish a work with the same title and similar content. However, unless that person directly plagiarizes, it’s doubtful the two works would precisely resemble each other.

light-bulb

Few Christian writers steal ideas. The poet T. S. Eliot wrote, “Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers steal.” The incessantly creative Pablo Picasso said something similar about visual artists. Both of these creatives referred to learning from other writers to improve your own work; perhaps imitating or morphing an idea, but not stealing exact words and images. Unless a person directly copies your work, it’s difficult to prove someone intentionally stole your idea. If you think another writer took your idea and its format after you revealed it to him or her, then it’s time to make an appointment and talk. You’d probably discover that writer already had the idea in process. Very seldom would legal procedures be merited. And if it’s Christian to Christian, remember the role of forgiveness.

Procrastination can hurt. At lunch with a friend who wants to write, she mentioned a recently published book by a female author. I responded that the book wrapped around a clever idea–a new “take” on a familiar concept.

Agitated, my friend Rebecca blurted out, “She took my idea.”

“What?” I asked, surprised.

“I had that idea and she wrote about it,” explained Rebecca . “I’ve had that idea for quite awhile and now she’s published it. I feel robbed.”

Rebecca might have felt robbed, but that wasn’t reality. She didn’t know much about the author. Never met her. My friend and that author conceived the same idea, but Rebecca procrastinated. During that time, the author actually wrote the book and published it.

Sitting on an idea too long might mean someone else, anywhere in the world, moves ahead and publishes something similar. Especially if you feel the Lord inspired you to write something, don’t take too long to act on it. Procrastination can turn into disobedience. Or at least serve you a lost opportunity.

You can publish an altered idea. Even if someone else publishes your idea and its format, you can still use the idea. Just alter it. Craft it in a different way. There is plenty of room for one idea to scatter into many life-giving angles and versions. Yes, the market can glut with similar themes, but if God asked you to write about something, that’s not your concern. Write your own version. Reach a narrow readership. This advice sinks the hearts of agents, editors, and financial managers, but we’re not called to be top-listers with our projects. We’re to fulfill our calling. It’s just as valid to impact a few people–or even one–with the hopeful, healing splinters of the Gospel through our writing. In any format. With a small-budget or non-existent marketing plan. Stretch your creativity and write the same idea in a unique or unusual way.

generations

Each generation needs the same messages. More than 20 years ago, I wrote a book about women finding their purpose and passion in life. It was received well, along with a Bible study and seminar to accompany it. Recently when I noticed younger women writing about the same topic–almost using the identical tag line as mine–my first response in my head complained, Well, I wrote about it first! They’re acting like this is a new revelation. Books dwindle in sales over time, but I still wanted recognition for my influence and creativity. For someone to acknowledge I wrote a purpose book if not first, in the early stages of Christian women exploring this topic. Selfish, I know. After awhile I repented for my self-indulged, haughty viewpoint. I conceded this was God’s message, not mine. He could scatter it around wherever, whenever, and through whomever He pleased.

God doesn’t drop an idea or message into the soul of one person, one time in history. Each generation needs the Gospel and biblical principles in fresh ways. In words and formats that introduce Him to the younger generation within a context they comprehend. Women in their twenties through fifties can reach readers I can’t. Instead of claiming someone took my message, I now think, Isn’t that wonderful the message about purpose continues on? How can I celebrate that author encouraging her generation or unique group to embrace God’s individual purpose for each woman? My positive response wasn’t automatic. But when I reminded myself purpose comprises an element of God’s time-evading desire for humanity, I acknowledged my tiny role (a speck, really) in spreading this magnificent message. I applaud my spiritual sisters for carrying it forward. And encourage them to stride with humility.

It’s not a competition. A writer friend Anna attended a conference designed to encourage Christian writers and speakers. During a round-table meal, Anna revealed she was writing a book about a specific topic. Another writer at the table suddenly seemed agitated and explained, “That’s my topic and format, too.” After this admission, the responding writer changed in demeanor and wouldn’t talk much. Anna told me, “I could feel the chill.” My friend was new to the publishing world, but over time she returned from other Christian writer conferences with the same observation: “Most of the writers seem engaged in competition with one another. I can’t stand that.”

God never asked us to compete with one another. It’s poison to the soul, our unity, and collective message. Although we think we’re hiding our competitiveness, readers and other writers detect this spirit. You can destroy effective ministry through competition. Instead of silently comparing, complaining, and competing, we’re to fulfill our calling, our unique expression, our Spirit whispers to write something specific or pursue a ministry theme. A competitor since birth, it’s required years for me to absorb this truth. I damaged myself and others along the way.

Overall, we can’t control the proliferation of ideas. We can only follow God’s impressions on our hearts through our unique viewpoint, personality, and writing style. We can flex when it’s necessary. And contribute to harmony instead of hostility among Christian writers. The world watches us.


Note:
If you read the blog about Shakespeare’s theft, you’ll need to pardon the language. http://www.cracked.com/article_21898_5-famous-authors-who-stole-their-biggest-ideas.html

art-of-faith

Judith Couchman is the author or compiler of more than forty traditionally published books, compilations, and studies. She’s currently writing the book, How to Keep Writing and Loving It. Sometimes she writes about art, a passion for many years. She’s not worried about somebody stealing her ideas.

 

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woman with typewriter

by Judith Couchman

Might we in our rush to kill all our darlings risk beheading our only valuable bits of expression or insight?—John Crowley

You write like crazy. Brilliant ideas spill from nowhere. Original word combinations flow. Then your editor says, “This passage doesn’t fit. We need to cut it.” The editor deletes paragraphs of your stellar work.

You feel like you witnessed a murder.

Traditionally, writers call these cherished but unusable passages and pages their “darlings.” Authors around the world, from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch to Stephen King, have advised writers to kill those darlings: the gorgeous words, sentences, and passages not effectively contributing to the work. But it’s not necessary to completely obliterate them. Although they’re cut from a work in progress, you can save them for a possible future project, or even later in the current manuscript.

One novelist laments, “I should have treasured all first attempts, drafts, notes, even just ideas that I ever got when writing my novel or even when just thinking about it. Now I do! I save them all! Characters, scenes, and plots have their way to evolve and go full circle to reclaim their rightful place in your work.”

So don’t commit murder. Gently move your little darlings to a literary safe house, a file you won’t lose. Someday they might find their rightful place.

Judith Belgium

Judith Couchman is currently writing the book, 365 Ways to Keep Writing & Loving It, available in time for Christmas through Elk Lake Publishing. She is an author, speaker, writing coach, and adjunct professor. Judith has traditionally published more than 42 works.  Learn more about her at www.judithcouchman.com. Write to her at judith@judithcouchman.com.

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