10 New Tools
No Writer Should Be Without
by William Doonan
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,
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
they caught that.
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:
me,” Lady Agatha purred as she let her kimono fall to the
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
me,” Lady Agatha purred as she let her kimono fall to the
“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!”
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.
RoofingTile – this actually has nothing to do with writing, but
it’s a great app for comparing roofing tiles if you find yourself in
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.
don’t care,” she sobbed. “I love you.”
Enrique shuffled near. “It could never work,” he gurgled.
“I’m a zombie.”
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
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?
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
first published in Novel spaces
in October 2013