In my blog, “Writers’ Tools and Suggestions – October 2021,” I wrote that I would update you on Grammarly and other tools I use for writing. Where does the time go? As mentioned in that 2021 blog, I’m a PC user, not an Apple computer user. These two worlds share some commonalities for writers but have significant differences, so I don’t know how much help this will be to my friends who use Apple computers and software.
I still use Word in Microsoft 365—a one-year lease costs around $160 and includes Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and OneDrive. Once you have a working copy, they will automatically renew using your credit card on file every year.
I like this version of the software because it’s easy to use. You can ask it to read to you what you wrote. If you haven’t tried this yet, you can find it by clicking on Review, then clicking Read Aloud on the taskbar. You can select a man or woman’s voice to read your text. Then position your cursor where you want it to read in your document. An action bar will appear on your screen in which you can control starting and stopping the reading, or you can fast forward or backward. Just click on Read Aloud again to turn off the feature. I use this for editing. It has been invaluable for me to hear what I have written.
Dictate is another option on the Home screen that may be useful to some. I haven’t used this one, but I can appreciate its usefulness and hope to use it someday. It allows you to talk into a microphone attached or embedded in your computer, and the appropriate text should appear in your document.
What I don’t like in this version of Word is its Spelling and Grammar checker—found by clicking on Review and then clicking on Spelling and Grammar. My older version of Word would point out passive-voice sentences. This one doesn’t specifically tell you that you wrote in passive voice. It will list the sentence under Refinements and Clarity. I usually try to improve the sentence until the error message goes away. In my opinion, it’s a little clunky. That’s why I opted for the premium version of Grammarly.
Grammarly is a better editor, and the basic edition is free. I used the free version for a long time. It doesn’t identify passive voice either, but the premium version does. I opted for premium, which costs around $143 a year. For upgrading to premium, they offer discounts ranging from as low as 40% to 70%. Watch for those offers before you upgrade. I didn’t and paid the full price.
Once installed on your computer, Grammarly becomes an add-on to Word and your email programs. It will even work on your cell phone if you desire by adding an app to your phone. On the PC, it places an icon on your screen when working on a Word document. As you type, it will advise you when you have a misspelled word or a grammar or punctuation mistake. Any time during the process, you can click on the Grammarly icon, and an editing panel appears next to your document listing all the misspelled words, awkward and passive voice sentences, grammatical errors, and faulty punctuation. It will offer appropriate corrections; you can accept or reject their suggestions. You can obtain your free copy at www.grammarly.com.
I still publish my print books using Amazon Publishing. They call it KDP Publishing now. I recently started publishing the e-book version of my books on Draft to Digital because it will create a Kindle version and put it on Amazon; it will also create other e-book formats and distributes them to their appropriate website, e.g., Roku, Hoopla, Overdrive, and more. Both Amazon and Draft to Digital have made their software easier to use.
I tried creating my own book covers but realized I don’t have the tools or the experience for that and have opted to work with professional cover designers instead. You can find cover designers and editors on a website called Reedsy. It matches you with professional editors, designers, publicists, marketers, web designers, and ghostwriters. After you create an account, you can choose any of the above. You tell them what kind of help you seek and specify what you can afford to pay. Interested parties will contact you. When you and the professional agree upon a price, Reedsy handles the deposit and additional payments through their site for a reasonable fee. I found a talented cover designer and was pleased with her work and the Reedsy service. You can find Reedsy at www.reedsy.com.
Lastly, I will mention that much of the publishing world and the world, in general, is talking about Artificial Intelligence, commonly called AI. I’ve played around with AI offerings like ChatGPT and Google Bard. I asked it to re-write my website bio and make it more sales oriented. What it generated sounded nothing like my writing voice. I found them helpful in developing chapter outlines for a new book I’m working on. I just received an email about Grammarly’s new AI offering called GrammarlyGO. I will try that one out as well. AI is a moving target with many unanswered questions and troubling concerns. I will continue to monitor what’s happening in that world and try to find uses in my writing. Watch for future blogs as I continue researching this new and powerful tool.
As you probably know, the self-publishing world and the products used are constantly changing. With each book that I have published, there have been software enhancements that weren’t around for the previous book. I can’t guarantee that what I tell you will be the same when you use these products. However, the tools and techniques for publishing your book have improved and are easier to use. I will try to update you from time to time on the latest and greatest products available to authors in the future, even AI.