Suspend Your Disbelief

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Edit your novel? There's an app for that.


Okay, they’re not exactly apps, but new programs are standing by to help at every stage while you create your latest opus.

First, to help you read: Perhaps you’re reading online and want to pare away all the sidebars and ads? Readability has been around for a while, but it has a new feature: become a paying member for at least $5 per month, and 70% of your membership fee will go to the authors of whatever you read. Visit the Readability site to learn more or to sign up as a paying member or a publisher.

Next, to help you write: We’ve talked about Leechblock and other focus-enhancing programs in previous robot-assistant posts around NaNoWriMo. But maybe you need more help. Enter SelfControl, which blocks your access to email, Facebook, and Twitter for whatever length of time you choose. If you can muster up the self-control for one mouseclick to turn the program on, you’ll lock yourself into writing time: once started, the program can’t be cancelled—not by closing it, rebooting, or even deleting the program. You must wait for the program timer to run out—so you may as well get down to writing. (Via.)

And finally, to help you edit: For those who’d like an extra set of (computer) eyes on their work: EditMinion lets you scan your writing for common mistakes, such as adverbs, weak words, passive voice, and awkward dialogue tags that should be replaced with plain old “said.” Simply cut and paste your text into the box on the site, and EditMinion will generate a writing “report card” for you. (Via.)

Alas, there’s one thing the computer still can’t do for you, though—except in the world of The Onion.

Join the Discussion

  • J.T. Bushnell

    I’ve been considering one of these internet-blocking programs for a while. Are any of them free?

  • I’ve got a helper-bot suggestion:

    When you think of a great simile or metaphor, or just a nice turn of phrase or something that will make a perfect little detail somewhere, sometime, but not right now, you pop up this little onscreen notecard, with a horizontal line across it. Above the line, you put keywords, below the line, you put the thing you know you’re going to forget before the time is right for it. Now, every time you type one of those keywords, it gets highlighted somehow (maybe a squiggly blue line? :) and when you right-click on it, the card comes up.

    Seriously, I’d buy that in the proverbial… um… uh… Drat! What’s that word?

  • Celeste Ng

    J.T., yes! Almost all of them are free. Leechblock (for Firefox) is a free plug-in, SelfControl is free, and so is FocusWriter (for Macs, PCs, and Linux).

    See above for links, and visit this earlier post on the subject:

  • J.T. Bushnell

    That’s the last push I need. I’m doing it!

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