Grammarly: The best tool for the writer who’s not a native English speaker

I write a lot of English content. I write emails, blog posts and books all in English – but here’s my not so secret weakness. I’m not a native English speaker. I’m Afrikaans.

This causes a problem for me. Mainly one of grammar and sentence structure. Basically what I do wrong is I use English words to write Afrikaans sentences.

When revising my book people noticed this and pointed it out to me, so I realized that I need some help. Now me, I’m constantly reading up on how to use commas, I’m learning new words every day and generally, I just try to better my skills a little every week. It’s not enough.

 

So, on the prompting of the writing community, I opened a free Grammarly account and that is what I want to write about today.

Copy of Add heading
First, let’s cover some basics

What is Grammarly?

Some would call it a spellcheck, but it’s honestly much more than that. It’s a grammar tool.

Grammarly scans your text for errors such as misused words, misplaced comas misused modifiers and more. Then it points it out to you, explains what is wrong and then gives you the decision to fix it.

 

I love this not just because it helps me fix my text but because it teaches me about language.
It is like a gentle teacher that not only points out mistakes but uses it as a learning moment. That’s how I choose to see it anyway XD

 

I’m not going to lie, I’m a complete noob when it comes to Grammarly because not only am I using the free version but I’ve also only been using for a couple of weeks.

I do think that it’s made a difference in my content though and honestly the fact that it caught the stupid mistakes that I would have missed otherwise already has me impressed. I do want to give you a fair evaluation of it though. At least for the version that I’m using. (since I know nothing about the premium version aside that it’s supposed to be even cooler)

So let’s do pros and cons.

 

Pros.

1. It doesn’t only check spelling but Grammar too.
2. It is a learning opportunity if you are bi-lingual like me.
3. You can edit and personalize your dictionary
4. You can use it on your phone too as well as a firefox plugin, so it checks everything you write on social media.

Cons.

1. There seems to be a size limit on files you can load to be checked. So you can’t load a whole book onto the free version and just run through it. You’ll have to make a plan like go chapter by chapter.
2. The free version only checks for specific problems not all. So you’ll need the premium version to get the whole experience.
3. The premium version costs money.
This is not a real problem to most, just to broke people like me who can’t afford anything that you have to pay in dollars for (conversion rates suck)

 

My favorite feature would be that it spellchecks everything across my social media automatically. Because I have severe anxiety when it comes to social media, and this helps to ease that. To know that I’m not going to make a massive idiot out of myself by misspelling something really helps me.

 
I know this is a short review but I hope it helps you make your decision of if you want to use Grammarly. If you do decide to get it, I ask that you use the link in the banner below because that way I get commision – even if you only sign up for the free version.


Correct all grammar errors with Grammarly!

This post is sponsored by Grammarly, but I hope you can see that I am unbiased about my opinion and I promise I would never recommend anything that I don’t honestly think will help people.
With this said, thank you for reading, and enjoy your writing 🙂

4 books every writers should read

Read a lot, write a lot, and of course stick your nose into a writing manual on occasion – that might help too. -Enette Venter

I taught myself how to write over the years, and have used many resources to do so. Specifically I used books. So here is another recommendation post…

(Links are in the titles)

Writer book recomedations

 

1.On writing – Stephen King.

Once again (just like in last week’s recommendation post) I’m going to cut through all the suspense and start with the best.
This book is very famous in writing circles and I’m pretty sure most of my followers have read it already, but I will recommend it anyway.

This book is a mix between the biography and writing advice from Stephen King.
It contains:
Childhood stories, analogies, romance, lots of swearing, failures, success, origin stories, writing tips and lots of motivation.
In it King explains how he became the successful author he is. He gives writing advice and life lessons all while complaining that he is doing so.
I recommend this book not because of the literary advice it can give you but because it explains the heart behind writing. Sure we don’t all write for the same reasons but in the end writing is as much part of life as breathing, and I think this book captures that really well.

Thank you to my parents for buying me this book for Christmas. It’s really one of the best books you can read if you are a writer in need of inspiration.

Quote: It starts with this: put your writing desk in the corner and ever time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.

2.One Year Adventure Novel textbook -Daniel Schwabauer

Back in 2013 when I had just taken an interest in writing, my parents decided to buy me a package that’s supposed to coach me into writing a novel in a year. I failed miserably but learned a lot.
This package contained two books, a work book and a text book that explained the basics of story telling. Specifically adventure.

This course doesn’t cover things such as magic systems or clauses in a sentence but it does cover essential characters, the heroic journey, suspense, character goals, villain creation, theme, dialog and much more.

If you happen to be a younger writer or a new writer I can’t begin to recommend this packet enough. It teaches all the basics, and to be honest sometimes when I feel like I can’t remember how to write I still go back to that package and I refresh my knowledge of story telling.

This package focuses on adventure novels, but I think that that is still useful since most of the principals in adventure flow through to other genres as well. In my experience if you know these basics adventure the other genre’s comes easier.

 

3.Creative writing course – Chris Sykes

This is the book that actually inspired a lot of my first blog posts back in 2015 .
Where “On Writing” would teach you about the hart of writing and “OYAN” would teach you the basics of writing, this book will teach you more in depth techniques to help you refine your writing. It is this book that taught me about using the five sense and rhythm in writing.

What I really love about this book is that it’s very concise and after explaining a concept it give lots of practices specifically designed to help you master the concept.
I have filled about two notebooks just because of this book, and a lot of my great ideas such as this one (insert link to the battle of taste) comes directly from something I read in this book.

This book was actually one of the first investments I made into my writing since I bought it with my own money one holiday. (Some kids buy beach balls, I buy writing manuals XD)

 

 

3.5 The writer’s idea workshop – Jack Heffron

This one is similar to “creative writing course” in the fact that it’s more about technique and it give lots of prompts. It does focus more on where ideas come from and how to bring them to life. The reason this is only half a recommendation is because I haven’t finished reading it yet. It was a gift from a friend that I misplaced on a pile until I tried gathering my books for this post. I will tell you more about it once I actually finish it.

 

4. We call this writing – wattpad user KeriHalfacre

This is one that I just started on, but I already like it.
It focuses on less known writing advice – and shares recommendations such as these for writers to use. The writer of this book is a complete writing nerd, which means I already love her – and you will too.
If you’re not a wattpad user you will struggle to get to this one, but it’s really worth signing up for (plus all the free books)

 
Aaaannd… Done.
All these books are really worth reading, so if you’re not afraid of a little homework these will improve your writing.
Goodluck reading, writing and of course living – may you prosper where you’re planted.

My 5 favorite writing resources

Okay so I’ve been writing a lot again recently which means, I’ve been making use of my fave resources again and since I have a lot of writers following me, I figured it’s my duty to share these things with you.

So without any further introduction let’s jump into it.

(Links are in the titles)

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My top five writer resources

 

1.Bibisco.

This is by far the most important one on the list. See that it’s on top? That’s because I’m not messing around when I recommend this.
This program gives a couple of tips, sure, but what I love about it is it’s in depth character questionnaires. Normally I don’t even like questionnaires – but this program has helped me out of multiple story ruts, including the one I had with “Falling for Pink” two years ago.
It’s really a great program to help you get to know your characters and their dynamics.
5 out of 5 would recommend.

 

2.Brandon Sanderson lectures at BYU

Am I one of the lucky people who get to go to the classes that Brandon Sanderson (aka my favorite Fantasy author) is a lecturer at? No. It’s a good thing the classes are taped and put on YouTube because I’m not even in the right country for these things.
My obsession with everything Brandon Sanderson started at the age of 13 when my mum said my story reminded her of his books. Since then I have scoured the internet for advice given by him – because obviously he’s great and I want to be just like him. Lucky for me, my dad found these classes and they are awesome.
He can explain everything from characters to plotting and it’s kind of more an objective view point into writing. My fave lesson on his would be the one on magic systems – you definitely have to watch it.

 

3.Belly Balot

This is a baby naming site that I have saved in my tabs. It’s made my friends look at me weird multiple times.
Like no, I’m not pregnant, just a writer.
This site is great because you can search for names based on the letter they start with, ethnicity, time frame and gender. There is also the editors choice which gives you names from categories such as cowboy names, bad boy names and aristocrat names.
Each name is accompanied by the name meaning.

 

3.5. Behind the name

After I picked a name from Belly Balot I normally go search it in Behind the name, because there you get more information such as the origins of the name and similar names from different languages. I specifically do this, because I don’t always trust Belly Balot’s facts – so Behind the name gives a more in detailed explanation of the name’s meaning and origin.

 

4.Fantasy name generator.

This is also one that I use often. This site is masterfully made and I’m honestly a little in love with it, because it has such a wide variety of name generators.
This site has over 1200 different name generators. These are things such as elf names, fantasy surname, clan name etc. Any kind of name you need for your story, this site can generate for you. Obviously I don’t use it for character names, but I use it for book titles, surnames and a lot more.

 

5.Pacemaker

This is a new one, that I’m just now starting to use. But it looks cool so far so I have to share!
If you’ve ever participated in NaNoWriMo then you’ll have seen that they provide these cool charts to help you keep track of how much you’ve written and how much more you should write.
Well Pacemaker is basically that on steroids.
On this site your project can be anything from a novel to a blog posts. You can use it any time of the year, not just during November. You can decide how intense you want to work and if you want to skip weekends.
It’s really looks cool – but like I said I just started using it, so you’ll have to try it for yourself to be sure 😛

 

 

All right, those are my top five resources today.
There are more, but we can get into those another time. For now, I hope that some of these recommendations prove useful to you and that you write as easy as you breathe in the coming weeks. (unless you have asthma – then I wish for you to write easier than you breath.)

How to tackle a writing session (when your project is done)

writing session

All writers have that moment where you’re not technically busy with a big project anymore but you still have the urge to write (after all it’s addictive) or perhaps you simply want to keep the habit of writing regularly from slipping from you.
Whatever your reason is; now you’re sitting there in front of your computer (or notebook) but you have no clue what to write.
So I gathered the ways that I handle these days in the hopes that they help you.

 

First I would like to set some form of goal for myself to work towards for the day. That way I am focused and less likely to abandon my writing in the middle of a session.
There are two ways in which I can set my writing goal.

 

The first is a timed goal.

Back when I was still starting out with my writing and I still typed slowly I would give myself the goal of writing for an hour. This worked because it’s easy enough to just set a timer on my phone and then no matter how badly I write, or how slowly, I will still have given attention to my writing.

 

The second is a word count goal.

These days, whenever I sit down to write I give myself the goal of typing 1500 words which is approximately one scene from a story. These 1500 words can be achieved through any method.
It can be three flash fiction pieces or one long scene. Anything goes as long as I meet my goal.

 

Once I have my goal I need to figure out what I want to write (obviously)

I’ve got three exercises that I prefer to use for this.

Turn a melody into fiction.

When I was little I had an art instructor who would put crayons in front of us and turn on some music. We were then expected to listen to the music and start drawing lines that we feel represented it. A happy song was bright colour and a sad song was cold colours.
So essentially you have to represent the song in a different medium. You still with me?

Now, what you can try is to put on a song (perhaps one without lyrics) and then listen to it. You must pick up on the tone of the music and let it inspire your creativity. If this music was describing a place what place would it be? If it was describing a person how would they look? If this song was a scene from a story what events would take place?
Play around with it and write as much as you can.
This is one of my favourite exercises.

Use a prompt.

They are all over the internet.
My favourite prompts come from the fake red head. Her prompts are a lot more creative and witty than most prompts on the internet. I feel like the prompts honestly set my imagination on fire and that is why they work well for me.
Again just basically pick a prompt and roll with it. Try to get as much words down as possible.

 

Lastly – read through your old scrap writing and see if anything inspires you.

If you don’t already know – I am a big believer in the principle of saving all your old writing because no matter how bad the writing is you never know what a good idea is.
So if you are like me with a bunch of half ideas scribbled down somewhere or pieces of flash fiction saved on your computer then go read through it and see if anything jumps out at you.
Ask yourself if you can continue with this piece or if it connects to something else you’ve written.
Perhaps you had a cool magic system in one piece but the character wasn’t so great; then go right ahead and write a different version with the right character.
Play around with your old ideas because they might just spark some new ones.

 

Those are my favourite exercises and I promise you that I do not recommend anything that I don’t personally think will benefit you.
With that said I suggest that if you have a time sensitive goal you know where your recourses are beforehand so you don’t have to start googling things during your precious writing time. If the internet distracts you too much it’s better to just turn it off and stumble along on your own.

I hope this helped and as always if you liked this post please share it or comment. I would love to hear your favourite method of tackling a writing session.

My top 3 resources for writers.

3 writing resources

The only things a writer truly needs to write is an idea, some basic language skills and something to write on.
Yet if you do some digging you’ll find dozens of resources on the internet designed to make writing easier for us. Some resources are to inspire us while others are to help as plan or write faster.
I figured that since I’ve been writing for a couple of years now I might as well share with you my favourite resources so you can benefit from them as well.

The first one is obvious and you probably already know it exists.

 

Pinterest…

I tell people about the magic of Pinterest all the time and I still stick to it. Pinterest is an image based social media where you can see other people’s ideas, creations, thoughts and more. I use it throughout my writing process.
It has helped me pick names and faces for characters and I’ve even formed entire plots around some of the opinions that are shared on pinterest. So I suggest you open your Pinterest account and start searching. Look for photos and quotes.

 

Bibisco.

This one you probably haven’t heard of yet but it’s one of my favourite things ever.
It’s a computer program that helps you organise your planning. I specifically use it to help me shape my characters because it has built in character questionares (that actually work)
My experience is that it’s easy to use, it helps motivate and it’s just generally well rounded.
You can even write your story on it but I prefer not to because it just doesn’t compare to word’s Spelcheck.
I used this last year when I got stuck with Pink and it helped me slide past the probable very easily.

 

Finally Hemingway.

Hemingway is the ultimate spellchecker site.
You can copy and paste entire pieces of your writing into it and it will tell you which sentences are confusing. Which sentences are written with a passive voice and which words can be replaced.
It helps you trim your work and round off all the edges.

 

I hope that you try at least one of these things because they have helped me as a writer a whole lot and I wish for them to help you as well.
If you like this post and found it helpful please share it or comment.
I want to know what resources you would recommend. (I’m always looking for new stuff)

(Please know I only recommend things that I honestly feel you would benefit from)

Newbie lesson #1 – Planning out characters.

For the past few weeks I’ve been a part of the Young Writer’s workshop – which has been awesomely put together by Brett Harris and Jaquelle Crowe.

What I love about the workshop the most so far is the facebook group that is filled with the most awesomely amazing nerds ever. They all support each other, answer questions and read each other’s work. (I got my first beta reader btw!)

I really love being a part it!

It does mean that I’m exposed to a lot of brand new writers though. Writers who haven’t written their first novel yet. Writers who don’t know how to write that fist sentence or how to plot that first character. There are questions being asked on the group every day.

Inspired by their questions, I have decided that I want to write a writing lesson on one of the basics of writing.

How to create a character.

So here it is.

How to create a character – My own method.

In my time writing I’ve discovered that no matter how bad the rest of your story is, people will still love it if you’re characters are well written. That’s not a promise but that is how it works for me. For me characters are the heart of a story.

So that’s why it’s the first thing I want this series to cover.

Let’s get into it.

The first thing you need to do to create a character is grab a piece of paper. I use a normal A4 sheet with lines on it. You will hopefully not need too much more paper than that at first.

Now what do you put on the paper?

(there is an example of how it should look at the bottom of the post. Fill in sheet style)

Name:

At the top of your paper write down your character’s name. If you can’t think of anything go check out this baby naming site.

I like using a name with a meaning behind it, because that way I already have the first aspect of my character figured out. (example: Nava- beautiful. Bellona – goddess of war)

Gender:

In the next line write down either male or female… simple right?

Age:

Third line is age. I was taught that if you’re a new writer try to keep your characters around your own age – give or take two years. That way you can relate to them and as a result they’ll be more realistic. If you’re a grown writer who wants to write children’s books you may skip this advice.

Appearance:

Now the fourth part is where things get exciting.

In about 6 lines (on the paper) explain how your character looks. Go into detail.

When I was just starting out I thought that all you needed to describe a character was eye and hair colour. I was very naive back then.

No – eye and hair colour is not what takes to make a character appear to your reader. Instead try to go into depth in how your character looks at certain times of the day. Think about how they move. Think about the tiny scars that cover their arms etc.

Good things to use in descriptions are how they move, what kind of body build they have, how they dress, if they have long thin fingers or short chubby ones. These details help make a character real so take a minute to write down as much as you can think of.

Where necessary also add how they feel about their appearance.

Hermione had large front teeth. She hated them.

Doesn’t that give way more of an impression than eye colour?

Character’s life

Now take another six lines and fill in a bit about the character’s past and present.

Before you can write a story you need to know what mindset your character is currently in.  So go ahead and write down what you have figured out about them by now.

Here you should basically start by writing a quick overview of the character which can be prompted with questions such as. What social class is your character in? How caring is this character? How many family members does this character have, who do they care for the most etc.

Next think about their past. What have they lived through? What was a couple of defining points in their lives? Who helped them along the way?

Lastly what is your character’s current mindset? What is your character busy doing with in their life before your story begins? What is your character doing day in, day out? Does your character have any goals?

This will help you know who your character is when you just start off with a project.

That’s it. Those are five simple areas that if answered correctly give you a character.

Now write.

The next step would be to honestly observe your character. I’m going to give you a scene and then you just place your character into the scene and write it out so you can see what kind of character you have.

This helps because it sets you into the mindset of your character, and if the character acts out of the guidelines you built, you’ll be able to decide how to fix that problem before you start with your main project.

Scene

Your character is about to have a lesson in (insert interest of choice) and is laughing with their friend to the side when their instructor barks at them to come show off what they had been practicing the week before.

How your character approaches the lesson is up to you.

Got it? Go.

When you’re done, feel free to share your writing with me. I love reading how other writers interpret my prompts.

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DIY writer’s journal

It is no secret that I have a fondness for notebooks. Big thick ones with pretty covers, thin little back ones, those with lines and those without. All notebooks are perfectly acceptable to me.

 

writers-notebook

 
Two weeks ago I wrote about how much I love New Years because of that energy it gives.
The same principle goes for a nice, clean notebook.
A notebook in and of itself is just a bunch of pages with potential. You can use it for traditional journalling, to keep a schedule or bullet journal. I don’t want to talk about that – what I want to talk about today is one of my favourite types of notebooks and that is the writer’s notebook.

The topic of this month’s posts is inspiration and this week I decided to do a bit of a DIY tutorial instead of a writing lesson. So find an open space and gather your ingredients because today I’m sharing with you how to start a writer’s journal.

 

How to put together a writer’s journal.

 

Part one: the outside.

This is not a necessity but I’m decorating my own notebook this year. Normally I’d just buy those pretty books that are already decorated but this year I’m on a bit of a budget and those are almost six times more pricy than the plain notebooks that you can buy anywhere.

So I’m going to be decorating it myself but if you prefer to buy a decorated notebook then just skip this step.

Ingredients:
A plain notebook.
Some ribbon.
General art supplies (E.g. scissors & glue)
Coloured paper or anything else that you feel like decorating with.

Here is a pick of my stuff.

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Now that everything is gathered you should start by simply wrapping it in a base paper.
I did mine in black paper, because I really like the clean and elegant that black paper gives.

From there off on I simply decorated as I saw fit. I suggest you name it and of course make it look pretty to you.

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You can see that the name of the book (idea pile) is written in the most OCD bugging way ever. This is simply my personal way of creating journals because I like them to not be completely clean and straight forward. I want them to catch my own attention and to invite imperfection into my work.
Inspiration often comes in really raw and a backwards. So if I tell myself I have to do everything perfect I would never write a word.
You can do yours however you want but I really suggest you adopt this mentality whenever you write in your little book. You need to allow yourself to write gibberish at the start.

I then went and did my little pen holder slash bookmark which is basically just a ribbon with some stretchy material stapled onto the back. I cut small holes so it could hold my pen and then decorated it with only one single button instead of the six that I bought originally.

Here’s a photo!

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This is the end result of my notebook, so let’s opens it up and discuss what goes into a notebook like this one.

 

The inside of a writer’s notebook.

First I started off by writing my name on the inside.
You see when I was little we were given these little girly diaries with the small lock and everything. On the inside there was always a space to write down your name so anyone who found it would know that it’s yours. I still do this today because of more reasons than simply for if I lose it.
I like acknowledging that the little book is mine because for some reason it helps certify to me that this little book does indeed belong to me and everything I write in it is my own. It’s like saying this little book and all the wonderful pieces of junk on the inside is mine. So hands off.
This of course goes along with some contact details for in case I do actually lose it.

 
The second page is dedicated to a simple list of my projects.
This probably shows more about my personality than I would like you to know because it really highlights how goal driven I am. I like seeing what I’m busy with right at the beginning of the book so I can have parameters within to work so I can keep focused.
Not everything that goes into the little book has to do with my projects but I still like reminding myself that these are the most important things I’m working towards and that I shouldn’t let myself get too sidetracked by all the inspiration I gather.

 
This leads me to the third and fourth pages which are dedicated to story seeds.
If I have a vague idea that can be summed up into a line or two it goes onto these two pages.
This has always been one of my favourite parts of my writer’s notebook because these ideas tend to come at bizarre moments and later on when I feel like writing I can use them for prompts that will almost certainly inspire me.

 

Those are the only really set pages I have for any notebook so I’m quickly going to give you a list of 5 other things you can put into a writers notebook.

 
• Progress report: You know those main projects that I showed earlier on page two? Yes pick one of them and find a way to measure your progress with it. Set a few goals within the project and then make tick in little boxes as you work towards it or something.

 
• Character file: Draw a stick figure of your character and then get writing. Figure out what a character’s name is and work on making them real within the pages of your notebook.

• Short practices: This one should be really obvious. If you feel like writing grab some inspiration and just start writing anything and everything down. Focus on what words you use or how you are expressing the scene. Even if it’s not perfect at first you’ll have a solid idea down on paper when you’re done.

• Draw plot maps: There are different kinds of plot maps and so I suggest you go figure out which kind works for you and then you can use your notebook to build your ideas into stories.

• Write down encouragement: This is a little silly of me to say for this kind of notebook. Normally encouragement goes into something more like a personal journal but I think you can work it into this sort of notebook too. When you feel unmotivated just go to a page and after taking a deep breath write down all the reasons why you love writing. It’s a good exercise and then if you feel unmotivated again later you can return to it and be reminded why you write.

 

I really believe that writing on paper is good for you because it doesn’t have a backspace, which I think is really important when you’re just trying to get ideas down.

 

There are more things you can put into a notebook but I’m going to leave you here and let you go and experience it yourself. So go now and finish that notebook of yours and get writing.

 
Although, before you go – answer me this:
Are you new to the whole writing journey or have you been on your way for years now?
Any comments are welcome!