Review of Write!

For the last few months I’ve been test-driving Write!—a word processing application that lives in the grey area between a text editor and a WYSIWYG word processor.*

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Why, you might ask, are we talking about another entry in the word processing universe?  And that’s a fair question.  Since you’re reading this online, I’d be shocked if you don’t already have a go-to program when you want to hammer out a few pages.

But every job has tools—carpenters have hammers and chisels, analysts have computers and spreadsheets, and writers have pens and paper and word processors.  And anyone who performs a job for any length of time can get a little particular about the tools they use—just listen to a chef grumble if you tell them to use knives that are not their own.  Writers are not immune to this pickiness.  Bring it up at a gathering of writers and you’re likely to hear a dozen different opinions on what word processor—or lack thereof—works best.  Personally, since Ami-Pro—of the 1990s—disappeared, I’ve been drifting aimlessly. But for many people—and I’m one of them—using the right tool, or at least the tool that’s right for you, can be a critical thing.

This review has taken me longer than I expected; and while part of that has to do with the way free time dries up when you buy a house, it also took me a while to figure out how I felt about Write!  Not because it’s difficult to use—on the contrary, you can be up and running, and comfortable in your surroundings in less than 5 minutes—but because it’s fundamentally different that other word processors I’ve used.

After using it for several months I’ve started thinking of it as the Goldilocks of the word processing spectrum.  If you’re a high-end user of the fully-functional WYSIWYG programs, especially if you need something with powerful layout tools, Write! just isn’t going to be for you.  Conversely, if you’re like me, and gravitate toward the ultra-simplistic, barely-more-evolved-than-Notepad choices, Write! may have enough features to distract.  But if you fall somewhere in the middle, Write! could be the program that offers just the right mix of features to enable your writing, while getting out of your way.

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Likewise, Write! sits in the Goldilocks price zone.  High-end packages like Word can cost quite a bit, and the free software generally just isn’t full-featured, or can be a bit buggy.  Write!, at $24.95 for a lifetime license, is inexpensive, and if it’s features are what you’re looking for, that’s not a lot to pay for a slick, well-programmed word processor.

At its core, it’s that dichotomy that made this review so difficult for me to wrap my mind around.  It took a long time to understand why there needed to be a middle-ground between the extremes.  The way I’ve worked for years is to open up PSPad, or the WordPress post-creation screen, and once the writing was done if I needed to make it look pretty, I’d copy/paste it into MS Word to do the heavy-lifting.  Write! won’t solve that problem—if you need to get a document presentation-ready to take to the printer you’ll still need something else to make it look professional.

Instead, Write! has included a suite of features that can help you with the technical work of pounding out the pages.  Instead of fancy fonts, and clip-art packages, Write! includes features focused on productivity—cloud storage, powerful cross-document search capability, quick publishing of documents to allow sharing and collaboration.  Focus Mode—where the paragraph you’re working on is highlighted and others are de-emphasized—is a feature I thought would bother me, but I found surprisingly helpful.

As with any program, it has it’s quirks, some of which may resonate with you and some won’t.  I don’t love the way the spell-checker works—I think it takes one too many clicks once a word has been identified, but a friend tried it and liked it better than what she was used to.

There are a lot of things to like about Write!, but there is one feature that I REALLY need that Write! just doesn’t do very well—Portability.  The main reason I’ve come to rely on Google Docs is that if I find myself with the time to write I can open the document on my home laptop, my work computer, my tablet, my phone, or any computer I borrow—all without installing extra software.  Write! has the ability to export documents to other formats (docx, pdf, txt, and a couple of others), but without a phone app, or web version, portability is limited.

So is Write! worth it?  That will depend on how you intend to use it.  It seems tailor-made for writing copy for online use, because the text it produces isn’t bogged down by formatting codes.  However, it doesn’t do everything as well as it does the basics, and if you use your processor to make flyers, brochures, or anything that needs graphics, visual elements and formatting, it’s probably not your first choice.  To me, it’s a solid program and it has it’s uses, but until I can edit documents on-the-go, I’m only going to use it when I’m home or toting my own laptop to the coffee shop.


*DISCLOSURE:  I received a free license for Write! in exchange for agreeing to evaluate it and share my thoughts.  Since that agreement my only contact with the Write! staff was to ask a few clarifying questions, and to let them know this review was scheduled for today.

 

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9 Breakout Tips from Donald Maass

I have a huge bookshelf of self-help books for writing. If I get stuck, I roll my chair around to face my floor-to-ceiling shelves and explore tips from Donald Maass, Bob Mayer, Strunk and White, or James Frey on my problem-du-jour. These books are a wealth of information and take a long time to digest. I thought I’d take a few of my favorites and distill their highlights.

Literary agent Donald Maass is also the author of more than sixteen novels. I must admit, I’ve read none of those but have devoured his thoughts on how to write. I’ve reviewed both Writing the Breakout Novel (Writers Digest Books 2001) and The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for the Career Fiction Writer. These next nine tips are a distillation of both:

  •  When novelists whose previous work merely has been admired suddenly have books vault onto the best-seller lists or even achieve a large jump in sales, publishing people say they have ‘broken out’.
  • I first came to my conviction that the techniques of breakout storytelling can be learned around the moment that I first met one of my best clients…
  • Writing the breakout novel is… the habit of avoiding the obvious or of covering familiar ground, and instead reinforcing the conviction that one’s views, experience, observation of character and passion for chosen story premises can be magnified and pushed so one’s novels achieve new levels of impact and new degrees of originality
  • To survive in today’s book publishing industry, it is not good enough just to get published (as true today as ten years ago when Maass first wrote those words)
  • Most authors commit to story premises instinctively. Their gut tells them this is the one. There is nothing wrong with that, except the gut can sometimes be mistaken. It cannot hurt to subject your breakout premise to a little scrutiny.
  • The key ingredients I look for in a fully formed breakout premise are 1) plausibility, 2) inherent conflict, 3) originality, and 4) gut emotional appeal.
  • If there is one single principle that is central to making any story more powerful, it is simply this: Raise the stakes
  • Relegate setting to the backseat or make it the chassis on which everything else rides, but do not ignore it.
  • …if you do not have a moment of unexpected tragedy or grace in your novel, …consider where you might put it in

What’s your favorite how-to-write tip? Share it in comments.

–published first on Today’s Author


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the upcoming Born in a Treacherous Time. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

The Writers Circle: Writing Book Reviews

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One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

A lot of authors rely on readers to provide an honest and (hopefully) positive review for their books on sites like Amazon, Goodreads and others.  Do you do this on a regular basis or only if asked?  Do you do it only if you really loved the book or really hated it? How many plot details do you go into during your review and how do you come up with a rating for it?  As an author, do you look for or ask for reviews?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.