Review: Grammarly Free: You Get What You Pay For

Unfortunately, it feels more or less like a second stock spell checker at times. It does catch more typos and grammar mistakes than Microsoft Office’s built-in spell checker, but it isn’t anything earth-shattering.

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One of my clients has been singing the praises of Grammarly‘s free app for months, but unfortunately my laptop at the time was almost old enough to drive a car. I attempted to install it anyways, only to watch my computer freeze and stutter through even the most mundane task.

Obviously, this was less than ideal, and not something I could entirely blame on the company. After all, it was made with modern systems in mind, and my laptop was telling me that my computer is so old that Windows Vista was no longer going to receive updates from, well, essentially anyone.

Fast forward a few months and I was able to pick up a newer laptop. Despite the initial bugs that are inherent in Windows 10 (and they are many) I finally got it up and running and decided to give Grammarly another go.

After a few weeks of having it installed, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is very, very, very….okay.

It isn’t that it’s a bad app by any stretch. It was a cinch to install, and it performs exactly as they advertised. Both of these are great, and refreshing in a time when most apps simply purchase 5 star reviews to make up for not producing a final product.

Unfortunately, it feels more or less like a second stock spell checker at times. It does catch more typos and grammar mistakes than Microsoft Office’s built-in spell checker, but it isn’t anything earth-shattering.

I’ve used other Word-based apps before, and they all, more or less, perform about the same. I would assume Microsoft wants Office to be fully compatible with apps, especially as they push their computer experience to be more like their phone experience. However, there is a reason that I am not using a smartphone, and that is because I’m not really interested in playing Candy Crush on my computer.

As a result, adding on this app makes the load time take forever for just opening Word. I don’t know the mechanics of it, but I can only assume there’s something in the background that is trying to link Office to Grammarly’s server, and that back user communication usually has hiccups.

It’s nice having Gramarly off to the side of the ribbon; being a free app, I fully expected having something glaring at me the entire time I’m typing. The small notification on top of the icon is a nice touch, albeit it’s a bit odd; rather than displaying a true number of errors, it vaguely reads “1+”, “2+”, etc. What I don’t like about the notification system is that it’s so tiny that it sort of looks like a white blur on a red smudge.

So what causes the “+” amount of errors? That is where they get you. Spelling and grammar issues are, for the most part, included in their scans. However, if you want the full functionality, you must pay for premium. And while that may not sound like a good enough incentive, they have a better one – by ominously telling you that, without the premium version, several errors have been left untouched. To further add urgency to this sales pitch, errors can be “advanced” or “critical”, both of which simply redirect to where you buy it.

My last complaint is actually an included feature, and that is, while Grammarly is active, you are unable to use CRTL+Z, or the shortcut for the “Undo” function. While this in and of itself isn’t a deal breaker, it’s odd to me that an app to help you edit yourself wouldn’t allow you to undo changes during the editing process. Editing gets messy fast, and sometimes you go a little nuts with the deletes and changes.

Considering that not all of their suggestions are winners makes it harder to justify paying for premium. In fact, just like with the stock Microsoft checker, you may find yourself actively ignoring more suggestions than better developing your skills.

Overall, it’s a neat little tool that works better than Clippy would in helping you sound like a sane person who knows what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel like it was designed with writing in mind so much as trying to help reduce the risk of you sending out an embarrassing email mistake to your entire company.

In short, it’s a free spelling and grammar checker that works slightly better than the stock Microsoft free spell checker, but slow performance and odd design choices mar it. Finally, holding your mistakes ransom is a tactic that I always despise, and although a grammar mistake isn’t the end of the world, I still don’t love having unknown issues lorded over my head.

 

What are your thoughts on Grammarly? Do you know of any better tools to use instead? Drop a comment and I’ll check it out!

War Never Changes: What Bethesda Taught Me About Writing

And considering how much I enjoyed their previous project, Skyrim, I’m beginning to actually apply what I enjoy about their games and have attempted putting it into my own writing. So while yes, reading is important to writing, maybe games, or at least, the skills of game designers, are going to be the new wave of writing influences.

As a 30 single dude with no kids and/or love interest, I get to enjoy playing video games sans nagging. And as much as I gripe about being single, it’s pretty great to just be able to kick back and play as much as I want at night, which is how I like to unwind. And honestly, I’ve been playing video games since I was two, so it’s something I’ve long enjoyed doing and it’s something I plan to do at least for the foreseeable future.

Any writer worth their salt will tell you that in addition to practicing writing, it’s just as important to read as it will help guide you towards techniques and styles you may have not thought of before; sort of a passive learning by doing scenario.

Unfortunately, it’s 2017 and it’s harder than ever to split your attention between things that you love doing that are engaging versus taking the chance on something that may be interesting, or maybe it’ll leave you going “man, I wish I spent this past hour completing that level”.

As a result, it’s pretty frustrating to get involved in a game, only to be let down by repetitive action, bland story lines, and worse yet, technical bugs. So when I bought Fallout 4, I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging it was, as well as all of the subtle details that are easily missed.

And considering how much I enjoyed their previous project, Skyrim, I’m beginning to actually apply what I enjoy about their games and have attempted putting it into my own writing. So while yes, reading is important to writing, maybe games, or at least, the skills of game designers, are going to be the new wave of writing influences.

World Building

One of the obvious strengths of Bethesda is their ability to craft a world. The game rarely feels like playing a game, but truly assuming the role of someone wandering a post apocalyptic wasteland, or a lone wizard traversing the countryside on their own hunting dragons. And this is reinforced through subtle nods and background stories that pop up everywhere.

Skyrim had in-game books your character (and you) could leaf through that described the history and lore of the land, while in Fallout you can find computer entries and scribbled notes that describe the rise and fall of civilization. It’s the extra effort that truly makes you feel like you’re living the story rather than just playing through a level.

Details Make or Break It

As is the case with anything, too much world building can be a curse. Back to the world of Skyrim, some of the books you find are just a few paragraphs in length and offer a welcome reprieve from the constant random battles. On the other hand, there are some that feel as long as real books, and I find myself bogged down with too many details that don’t impact my life in the slightest.

However, in Fallout 4, there are tiny little stories of a world gone by; you just have to know where to look. For instance, the nuclear bomb that decimated the country happened in the month of October. As you start making your way through the ruins of Boston, you can find small phone booth-like safe spaces, like public safe rooms.

In one I found the other night, there was a small plastic jack-o-lantern with candy at the bottom. Within two seconds this went from a novel discovery to my mind running wild with the heartbreaking story of a child’s last trick-or-treating.

Make the Scary Parts Scary

Neither Skyrim nor Fallout are horror survival games. That said, there are plenty of spooky parts, and a plethora of monsters, demons, zombies, and other creatures you’d rather not tangle with. However, tangle you must, and usually in a setting that is just plain unsettling.

Despite the games not falling into the horror genre, and in fact, finding plenty of lush naturally beautiful areas, they don’t shy away from ratcheting the suspense. And it works – it forces you to be on your guard, and it makes you appreciate the safe areas all the more. And it’s something that I’ve tried incorporating as well. After all, life isn’t always roses and sunshine; sometimes it’s being in a dark sewer full of flesh eating zombies.

Live in the Gray

What has become Bethesda’s bread and butter is their lack of forcing you to be a fully “good” character or a fully evil character. Each and every situation, conversation, and interaction has an option to be a hero, a villain, or someone in between. And this is refreshing; life isn’t always so black and white.

Having the ability to not only be in the gray, but stay there, is more human. And in today’s jaded society, it’s nice to have something that influences your own characters to strive to be more realistic.

Be the Person You Want to Be

Bethesda does a great job of giving you plenty of freedom to not only design your own character, but essentially have a virtual Dungeons and Dragons character sheet. You control their physical appearance, their name, and as you progress, you get to choose what their strengths, weaknesses, and aptitudes are. As a result, you can play almost any type of character you want.

If you want to make a psychotic villain that looks, and acts, like Negan, the main baddie in The Walking Dead, you can. If you want to make a goody two shoes quasi-super hero (like my affectionately nicknamed Trashcan America), you can. If you want to just make an Average Joe trying to complete his own personal quest, you can. There’s no right or wrong answer; there’s nothing the game really tries to force on you. And as a writer, I am constantly thinking of new characters I’d love to design and try on my next play through as a result.

 

Have you found any non-book entertainment offerings that influence your writing? I’d love to hear about them. And if you need any assistance with your next project, I’d love to help out!

Chapter 19 Just Done Got Rewrote!

Anyways, just finished some rewrites this morning, and completed chapter 19. The exciting part (for me) is that I’m done to about the last ten to twelve chapters.

Hail and well met fellows!

 

Mmkay enough of that business. Anyways, just finished some rewrites this morning, and completed chapter 19. The exciting part (for me) is that I’m done to about the last ten to twelve chapters. It’s probably going to wind up being a little longer… than the last draft as I’m shuffling stuff down to the next chapter behind it. I’m trying to make it a bit more cohesive, as well as throw some more suspense in the mix. You know. Like a real boy author. Anyways, it’s going well, and as always, I appreciate the continued support, kind words, and well wishes.

No end date as of yet due to fluctuating work schedules, but this is a top priority for me this year. I know it’s been a long time in the making, but I feel like I’m really turning a corner this time. Again, the original rough draft can be viewed here, with the new and improved version on the way.

 

WIP Update: Chapter 18 Rewritten!

So work has been absolutely insane lately, and it’s really cut into my work time. And because I live in Florida, this has been made worse by fighting off what feels like both winter and summer colds. BUT, the good news is I’m finally done with chapter 18 rewrites, and I am still progressing forward!

So work has been absolutely insane lately, and it’s really cut into my work time. And because I live in Florida, this has been made worse by fighting off what feels like both winter and summer colds. BUT, the good news is I’m finally done with chapter 18 rewrites, and I am still progressing forward!

The very rough draft can be read here, and I think the improvements that the final version will have will be night and day. Even if you read through all of it, and bless you if you do, you’ll still feel like you’re reading an entirely new story once it’s all said and done with.

As always, if you have any inquiries about having me write or edit for you, I can be reached at the email address chris@writenowfl.com or on Facebook.

Thank you as always for the support. I have a few more travel assignments due in less than a week, so I’ll have some of those to peruse. And I also just used a presumptuous word like “peruse”, so, pardon that.

Happy writing everyone!

 

Write with a Green Thumb: Cultivate Your Story

Like growing a houseplant, writing a story isn’t difficult per se, but it does require dedication, continuing education, and giving it the best growing conditions possible. And while some days you may find yourself simply wishing it would grow itself, it can also instill a ton of pride seeing it growing from just a seed (an idea) to a mature plant (or finished book). It’s also easy to draw landscaping parallels between the two ideas. And since once upon a time I used to do a little landscaping myself, it’s easy to apply similar principals.

I have been known, on occasion, to dabble with growing a houseplant. And now that I’m between growing anything (I plan to again soon, with all of that free time I have) I see certain parallels between making sure something grows and blossoms, and crafting a story.

Just a couple of nights ago I found out that a former coworker of mine, Kimmy Pagnotta, is self publishing her own comic book. Which is incredible! And it also got me thinking about my own struggles with my story, The Autumn Mage.

Like growing a houseplant, writing a story isn’t difficult per se, but it does require dedication, continuing education, and giving it the best growing conditions possible. And while some days you may find yourself simply wishing it would grow itself, it can also instill a ton of pride seeing it growing from just a seed (an idea) to a mature plant (or finished book). It’s also easy to draw landscaping parallels between the two ideas. And since once upon a time I used to do a little landscaping myself, it’s easy to apply similar principals.

Trim the Dead Growth

This one is always intimidating at first, because anyone who starts a new project has that feeling that whatever they write is perfect. It’s not. Whether you’re on your second draft or your 20th, if something isn’t advancing the story, it’s gotta go.

But it’s my favorite part of the story!

While I’m sure your creative genius is without rival, cut it. You can always recycle an idea later, but if it doesn’t help the story, it hurts it. When a plant has a dead limb, you have to hack it off with a nice, clean trim. Doing so allows new growth to take place, as well as reallocates resources allowing the plant to grow healthier. Same rule of (green) thumb applies here.

Prune the Overgrowth

This is similar to the first tip in both regards. With landscaping, trimming is more cutting off the bigger stuff that has to go, which in writing may be whole subplots, paragraphs, scenes, even characters. Pruning, on the other hand, is more of a pinpointed removal of smaller problems.

Pruning is done to plants to help aid its overall shape, like with bushes and shrubs, and to allow better growth with trees and the like. When too much growth is allowed to take place, branches and leaves can start blocking out the sun, which leads to a vicious cycle of the healthier overgrowth on top stealing away food from the rest of the plant. By cutting it away it allows the tree as a whole to grow better.

In the same vein, if your have unnecessary portions of a story, it’s only going to bore readers. It may be well written, but it only takes away from the meat and potatoes of the story. No matter how well you crafted it, taking it out will lead to a healthier body.

 Feed the Roots

Many amateur gardeners think that growing a plant is literally a Just Add Water! scenario. Unfortunately, like any living thing, that’s not enough. Sunlight acts as plant food, but more often than not they need a little help with fertilizer or other added nourishment.

Doing this feeds the roots, not the plant directly. Feeding the roots allows it to distribute the vitamins throughout the body, strengthening it as a whole. This is akin to having someone else edit your story. They’ll show you where you can improve, what works, and what doesn’t.

Find Your Own Way

When you go online for tips on a subject, you’ll always find a message board where Expert 1 is arguing with Expert 2. The Internet is great for sharing information, but sometimes people confuse opinions for facts. While a little bit of the right advice goes a long way, you should also find techniques that work best for you.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Everyone starts somewhere, and everyone needs a little extra help or mentoring. Whether it be the employee working the garden center or a club or group online, it’s always a good idea to find something with helpful tips.

I am always available with writing and editing services! And if you’re working on a project and you’d like to feature it, just ask!

If you have any other writing (or gardening) tips to share, sound off in the comments below! I love hearing what works for others in their creative process.

Trust No One, Not Even Yourself: Rewriting my Work In Progress

So, now that we’re into the New Year, New Me season in full force, I already have a confession; I am dreading rewriting the second half of the Autumn Mage. And it’s not that rewriting the same story that I’ve been working on in one form or another for the past five years isn’t fun anymore (it isn’t), it’s that I know it’s the weaker half.

So, now that we’re into the New Year, New Me season in full force, I already have a confession; I am dreading rewriting the second half of the Autumn Mage. And it’s not that rewriting the same story that I’ve been working on in one form or another for the past  five years isn’t fun anymore (it isn’t), it’s that I know it’s the weaker half.

It isn’t weaker in terms of story; I made sure to slowly build one chapter on top of the other. My biggest weakness when I first started down this rabbit hole is the thoughts in my mind play out in a way that makes sense to me, but when read, does little more than enrage my editor.

No; what I’m worried about is the simple notion that I am more than likely going to have to completely gut not only entire chapters, but entire plot lines. And I know it’s coming. For me, the closest thing I can equate this feeling to is when you walked into class on Friday morning, forget you had a quiz, were forced to attempt it, and then had to spend all weekend with that awful, terrible grade gnawing away at the pit of your stomach. By Saturday afternoon you just want to go see how bad it was to get it over with.

My final act was ambitious to say the least. And while ambition is good, there’s always the risk of having too much going on at once. I blended government secrets, espionage, Greek mythology, and traditional fantasy. It’s a fiction smoothie, and I’m sure my accomplished writing friend choked on quite a bit of it.

I understand fully the benefit of rewriting and editing your story. I know that in its current stage it isn’t ready yet. And I do want it ready. This is the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken for myself, and it excites and terrifies me all at once. Self doubt has always been one of my biggest weaknesses, and I’m afraid of flying close to the sun and allowing myself to crash and burn.

It’s harder to get motivated to edit, too. I took November off and worked on some short stories, which I will finish probably around 201whenever, and I honestly don’t care if it becomes anything or not. It was simply a way to get my creative juices flowing. But now I have fear creeping back in, and it’s like that big final project that you’ve had all semester to do; it needs to be finished yesterday, and you’re petrified to fail at it.

And so I will press on. It’s tough, and honestly, for me, this has been the most difficult part of the process. I know others will find it easier, and other still will struggle with it more than I am. But you have to burn the woods down to fertilize the soil again, and I do enjoy a good fire.

If any other writer pals have any tips for kicking your own butt back in gear for rewriting, please let me know with a comment below. I’m still very new at all of this and I love hearing more experienced people’s advice! And if you need help with your writing projects, just drop me a line and I’m more than happy to assist you.

October Articles are GO

I hope everyone’s October/Inktober/Rocktober/Autumn Solstice/Spooky Times Month is going well.

I have three new posts up (plus one I worked on) for you to enjoy.

I hope everyone’s October/Inktober/Rocktober/Autumn Solstice/Spooky Times Month is going well.

I have three new posts up (plus one I worked on) for you to enjoy.

I don’t get to do it as much as I’d like, but I love to travel. And as you’ve guessed, I love to write. So working on travel blog posts are a lot of fun for me.

The topics this go round are monuments, dia da muertos, and Oktoberfests. The company I write for is an American travel group, so even though these traditions are Spanish and Bavarian in origin, respectively, they are all about events in these United States.

 

Hotel Coupons

I love writing for Hotel Coupons blog because of how unique their topics are. In this case, diverse festivals that celebrate cultures that don’t get a whole lot of celebration.

If you’re interested in beer, pretzels, schnitzel, and fun, definitely check out my Oktoberfest post. There just might be a festival near you!

If you want to check out some sugar skulls, dancing, and alters, see this post on Dia de Muertos!

Drive the Nation

The articles for Drive the Nation are typically geared towards places you can find unique nationally history. This month, I wrote about:

 

If you want to see more, you can check out my past assignments here. And if you would like me to write guest posts for your site or blog, just drop me a line or send me an email at chris@writenowfl.com.

I Did Some Guest Posting

If you enjoy my writing AND like to learn about traveling, I have good news: I’ve started doing some blog posts for Hotel Coupons and Drive the Nation.

If you enjoy my writing AND like to learn about traveling, I have good news: I’ve started doing some blog posts for Hotel Coupons and Drive the Nation. Drive the Nation is owned by Hotel Coupons, but has a different feel to it.

Hotel Coupons, as you might have figured out, is a great place to save money on travel. They do more than just find you the best price, like aggregated discount sites. They find last second deals and cancellations to make sure you get a great stay at the lowest price possible. Best of all, if you use their mobile app you can find local hotel price deals through geolocation. That means no more having to pull over on the side of the road to find the best hotel price, because your phone will do it for you.

You can find their coupons everywhere, from Denny’s, state rest areas, and even McDonald’s . They get to lowest prices so you don’t have to do the work, which makes them far more capable than Priceline or Kayak.

If you want to take a much-needed vacation and haven’t decided where, both Hotel Coupons and Drive the Nation have tips, tricks, and more about visiting major cities, as well as hidden gems all across the USA.

Most recently, I posted an article about visiting Knott’s Berry Farm and some fantastic places to see the Milky Way. I’ll be having more posts in the near future as well. You can visit my author page for Hotel Coupons and for Drive the Nation for easier access to my posts.

What’s been some of your favorite vacations? Do you like the typical tourist traps, or go off the beaten path? Let me know in the comments!

 

And if you’re interested in me writing some blog posts for you, you can contact me through email:

or through my site!

Thanks for reading and happy travels!

What am I even doing with my life?

Alright, I know I’ve been sort of quiet. I’ve been hard working on two things: doing freelance work, which chews up most of my time, and also, doing a complete rewrite of the Autumn Mage.

Alright, I know I’ve been sort of quiet. I’ve been hard working on two things: doing freelance work, which chews up most of my time, and also, doing a complete rewrite of the Autumn Mage.

I received it back from my editor, and, as a first-time writer, it needs extensive work. Which I am doing slowly but surely. Today I just finished rewriting chapter 8.

By “rewriting”, do I mean just going Track Changes -> Accept All? No. I mean a full and complete rewrite. Top to bottom. It’s tedious, but it’s already way better than the draft I posted on here.

I’m making tweaks to characters, dialogue, and even some of the story. One of the biggest criticisms was I have a hard time conveying my thoughts to the reader, and I couldn’t agree more. I’m also giving too much detail on frivolous areas, and not enough where it counts.

I know this is taking a long time, and I appreciate the kind words and support I’ve already received, and I’m aiming to make this as great as I possibly can. Thanks for everyone’s continued patience!

If you haven’t checked out my fantasy WIP yet, the (very) rough draft can be found here. That is the inexperienced, pre-edited copy. The one I’m putting through a wood chipper and completely reworking.

And in the meantime, if you’d like to schedule me for all of your business, academic, and creative writing and editing needs, you can visit my website and shoot me an email at chris@writenowfl.com.

 

The Needs of the Few: Using the Pareto Principle

So a few weeks ago, I was jam-packing my schedule, which is preferred considering I’m a freelance writer and editor. I would rather have too much work than twiddling my thumbs. However, I went almost three weeks solid without a break. I was burning myself out and wasn’t necessarily getting any further ahead.

It wasn’t just work, either. I was taking a look at my day and just kept muttering about how there wasn’t enough time. Something had to change.

So a few weeks ago, I was jam-packing my schedule, which is preferred considering I’m a freelance writer and editor. I would rather have too much work than twiddling my thumbs. However, I went almost three weeks solid without a break. I was burning myself out and wasn’t necessarily getting any further ahead.

It wasn’t just work, either. I was taking a look at my day and just kept muttering about how there wasn’t enough time. Something had to change.

I picked up one gig summarizing books, and one of which brought up the Pareto Principle. It’s been around for several hundred years, but it goes mostly unnoticed by most people. What the Pareto Principle states is, in general, 20% of whatever you put effort in to gives you 80% of your results. This isn’t a hard rule, but I bet if you take a look at some things in your life, you can see the Pareto Principle at work.

It sounds weird, but it seems to be everywhere. If you go and and get a Big Mac, that’s the majority of your daily calorie intake from one sandwich. You probably get most of your daily caffeine from your morning coffee. Your smartphone probably hogs most of your daily attention.

If you have clients, like I do, chances are that about 80% of your income comes from around 20% of your clients. Your repeat customers are the ones doing most of the hiring. That means only 20%, roughly, is coming in from all your other efforts. By finding the areas that you excel in, and the customers that keep coming back, you can really maximize your potential.

In order to apply this, I’m taking less time at the gym. I gut my cardio time from 30 minutes with a 5 minute cool down to 20 minutes with a 4 minute cool down. I also started doing fewer repetitions with more weight. This way, I’ve cut my time at the gym from an hour-hour and a half to about 40 minutes. I’m still working up a sweat and I’m getting more time back to my day.

It also helps you take a look at leisure time. I love playing video games. However, I would rather play for an hour than stay up all night playing. The joy and fun that I get tends to wear off, but by limiting my play time I can still get some goofing off time and enjoy it.

I’m also focusing on repeat customers more than before. I still actively pursue new leads, but I understand now where my focus needs to be. Studies have shown that companies spend more money pursuing new leads than if they spend money retaining old ones.

I’ve also tried my best to reign in my work hours. I’m writing for me and my Work in Progress for the first hour before I do work. I was trying to do it after I had finished working on my client’s projects for the day, and it was leading to fewer amount of time spent on writing and generally just being shoddy at it.

So in short, saving time and working smarter is going to make you a much happier camper. A great way to save time is by letting a freelancer take on your writing and editing projects. I am available to schedule your needs today! Visit Write Now to contact me for your academic, creative, or business writing needs.