When I first sat down to write this review, I pulled out my laptop. I know, I know. What was I thinking? But, habits are hard things to drop, which is why we all need a bit of help sometimes.
Luckily, I realized my mistake and quickly closed the laptop and grabbed the Freewrite. And that, my friends, is how I am writing this review. So, be prepared for a freeform, word-vomit salad of a review in the true spirit of the FreeWrite – a tool designed to help authors write without looking back.
I’m an author and freelance writer. I spend 4-6 hours a day writing. I also get distracted easily. I know this about myself, and yet I don’t always take the steps to optimize my writing time even when I know what those steps are. Close the tabs, don’t check social media, just get 1,000 words down without stopping to research when you get stuck. Just. Keep. Writing.
Enter the FreeWrite. The idea was instantly appealing, and I didn’t think long before I ordered one(thankfully for me, they have a payment plan). Since I received this marvelous little machine, I’ve found I can double or even triple my wordcounts during a writing session.
The FreeWrite is an electronic typewriter designed as a forward-momentum only, first draft writing beast. It’s not for editing. In fact, you can only make the minimal edits possible through pressing the backspace key. No highlighting, no cut and paste, no ‘let me just check one thing real quick’. Onward you must go. The small screen has enough room to display one to two paragraphs at a time so your mind is always kept in the present or future.
When you are ready to upload your unedited, free-form masterpiece, simply switch on the WiFi button and the content will sync to the cloud. This is where the Freewrite earns a big leg-up for me when compared to good old pen and notebook – no need to transcribe anything later.
Let’s see… what else do I like about it? Hey, I warned that you were getting a Freewrite-style review here. Though compact, it has a full, weighted keyboard that I find therapeutic to type on. The E-Ink screen backlight is optional, and so you can turn it off and can sit outside at a coffee shop or a picnic table and not worry about glare on your screen.
The entire thing is fairly light. I can fit it into my computer bag along with my laptop as long as I move a few things around. What else? Oh, there are multiple folders you can toggle through, allowing you to work on several projects at once if needed. Also, there are options for starting a timer, or tracking your word count if you are sprinting or are trying to achieve x number of words per a day(this would be a great tool for National Novel Writing Month).
The best part? When you find yourself distracted, when you otherwise would have started researching obscure facts from the 1940s or switched over to a social media tab for ‘just a minute,’ instead, you look up and take in your surroundings. You employ the far off gaze of a writer at work and you wait for the next spark of inspiration. Eh, what do I know? I’m mostly rambling. But, that’s the beauty of the Freewrite.
What can I say? I’m really enjoying it so far. But, I realize this wouldn’t be a balanced review without throwing in a few caveats. The keyboard could be a quieter. There is also a slight lag when typing quickly, so you will find yourself waiting a second for the words you just typed to appear on the screen. If either of those are deal breakers for you, then there you have it.
So, what are my final thoughts? I love my Freewrite, and the times that I remember to use it I am more productive, no question.
It is not for anything other than first drafts, so anyone who buys one thinking otherwise will be sorely disappointed. If you are a writer with excellent focus who can always keep their mind on the task at hand and who writes for hours a day with no thought of anything else, then congratulations, you win. Maybe it’s best to spend your money elsewhere.
So, in conclusion, if you find yourself craving a tool that allows you to type on a full keyboard, seamlessly send your work to your computer when you are ready for the editing phase, but otherwise devoid of other temptations and distractions then this might be the tool for you.
Well, I’m a sucker for new toys, particularly when it comes to my writing craft. Anything that can help me wrangle the herd of cats within my wild imagination is a plus, especially when it comes to story structure. That is why when I came across the trail of Fictionary, I was instantly curious. I got an email with a package deal for another year license for ProWriting Aid, which I recommend to all writers, and with it was a new developmental editing software called Fictionary.
I signed up for a free trial and was blown away by the level of detail the creator and fellow author, Kristina Stanley and her team had created. Fictionary allows you to upload your manuscript from Word or Google Docs directly into their user interface so that you can take a bird’s eye or 30,000ft view of your story and its structure. What I was most amazed by was the simplicity of the surface of the program as well as how deep you could go.
Fictionary breaks your manuscript down for you!
There be a number of bells and whistles under the hood of Fictionary and I don’t profess to know how they work in full, but after inputting my old manuscript for Nemeton: The Trial of Calas, I was instantly presented with a visual element that tracked my story’s narrative arc against that of prototypical or common story lines. This was a super cool feature right off the bat that let me see just how far off my original vision really was. This was helpful in many ways as, I am currently in a revision or rewriting phase with my previously published work.
But, where Fictionary really shines is in the scene by scene evaluation. The Visual components allow you to track the primary story arc as well as different character arcs and subplots across your manuscript, and that can be super helpful if you’ve got multiple arcs.
The three core functions of Fictionary.
Fictionary breaks it down to three key pieces, visualizing your arcs, evaluating your scene by scene story structure, and then exporting the monster once you are done with it. You can make edits on the fly, or edit your work 100% within the Fictionary software, kind of like Scrivener, but with a simpler interface.
Visualizing your story’s arc.
When Visualizing your manuscript you can check the full story arc, the amount of words per scene to aid you in nailing down your pacing, and also track how many times characters are showing up on a scene by scene basis. Though these three features seem potentially slight, they are remarkably powerful, not to mention I’ve got it on good authority that soon they will be rolling out even more powerful features.
Evaluating your manuscript scene by scene.
When Evaluating your scene by scene, Fictionary aids you by dialing in your character, plot, and setting down to the real nuts and bolts. Each scene or chapter has an interface to the right that highlights a number of tabs under which there are a list of critical questions that you should have asked in your first draft, but most likely didn’t if you are anything like me. Beyond the questions, each field is complimented by an infographic tip that educates you on the precise reason for each question or field. This is where the real power of the Fictionary software resides.
The Character tab features a range of questions like what character appear in the scene, who has the POV, what are the internal and external goals, what are the stakes and consequences, and the impact on the protagonist as well as other characters. The list goes on including an entire array of illuminating questions that, at least I often forget to include in my first draft. Plot, setting, and additional notes further aid you in dialing in your edit.
Fictionary, is it the next big thing?
I can’t speak to that yet, as Fictionary is a relatively new tool and I know that many writers are super comfortable with Scrivener. But overall, I think the interface is much more user-friendly. The primary draw is for writers who have already finished a rough or first draft of their work and want to import that manuscript in order to take it to the next level. I found the detailed list of questions and fields aided me in further cementing my story’s structure, theme and message.
Fictionary offers a free trial so that you can take it for a test drive, but I personally recommend that after you do so you take the dive. A year-long license won’t break the bank and I know that they are working hard at rolling out some key features like multiple manuscripts and an autosave feature to prevent losing precious progress. Overall I think Fictionary is a killer tool for novel based writers to explore.
Writing Bloc has your back!
We have partnered with Fictionary to provide all of our members with a killer discount on your first three months or on your first yearly license!
Fictionary is offering Writing Bloc writers and readers a 50% discount on the first three months ($10 per month, regularly $20 per month) or 50% off Annual subscription ( $100 per year, regularly $200 per year)
After a lot of work in May, our panel of readers and judges chose the stories to be featured in our second annual short story anthology, Deception!We received a plethora of great, well-written, and fascinating stories, and making the decision was quite difficult. In order to make the selections, all entries had the author’s name replaced with a random number before being submitted to the committee of readers. Each person on the committee rated and ranked the stories based on criteria such as originality, character, setting, style, and, of course, matching the theme of “deception.” These rankings were averaged out together to create a list of the top stories, and in the end, we chose twenty-five.
All of the stories were incredible. The work produced by our indie author community never ceases to amaze me. It was difficult to choose between them all, but if we accepted everyone, we would have one gigantic anthology with a hefty price tag. For those not selected, we are working on ways to still promote and expand upon their work, either through features like our new podcast (which you can listen to on the sidebar here on the website), or through a writer’s short story workshop we will soon announce.
The List of Selected Stories for the Deception! anthology
Without further ado and in no specific order, here is the list of the stories and authors to be featured in the upcoming Deception! anthology, anticipated to be published later this year:
“The Cleansing” by Jane-Holly Meissner —
Jane-Holly, an Oregon based writer, has been scribbling stories into notebooks and online for most of her life. She squeezes in time for homeschooling her four kids, date nights at the movies with her husband, and explaining her first name to everyone she meets. Jane-Holly believes that, if creativity is directly correlated to how messy your house is, she might just be one of the most creative people on the planet. https://www.facebook.com/jhmeissnerauthor/ / jainholliewrites.wordpress.com
“Violet Crane” by Jason Pomerance —
Jason Pomerance’s first novel Women Like Us was published in 2016, and his novella Falconer debuted that same year on Nikki Finke’s Hollywood Dementia. His short story Mrs. Ravenstein was part of the Escape! Anthology, published by Writing Bloc in 2019. He also writes for film and television. Jason lives in Los Angeles with his partner and their animals. www.jasonpomerance.com
“Scammers” by Ferd Crôtte —
Ferd Crôtte is a practicing physician who writes for fun and fellowship. His short story, “Captiveedom,” appeared in the Escape! Anthology, published by Writing Bloc in 2019. His debut novel Mission 51 is currently in production by Inkshares. Ferd lives with his wife Gail in Winston Salem, North Carolina. https://thebestparts.net
“Card Tricks and Other Tavern Miracles” by Phil Rood —
Phil Rood draws, writes, makes podcasts, and plays music because he loves to pull thoughts from his head in a number of ways. He loves his family, his cats, coffee, and Oxford Commas. philrood.com / inkandsunshine.wordpress.com
Mike x Welch lives in Western N.Y. with his wife and twin sons. He contributed a story (Convict 45) to the Writing Bloc’s inaugural anthology, Escape! Mike is hard at work on his debut novel PrOOF Vol. 1: The Vampire and the Dragon. http://Mikexwelch.com
“Quibbles” by G.A. Finocchiaro —
G.A. Finocchiaro was born and raised in South Jersey. He is a self-described goofball with a taste for bad jokes and good burgers. Finocchiaro currently lives in the Philadelphia suburbs. www.theknightmares.com / www.gafino.com
“Honeysuckle Sky” by Tahani Nelson —
Tahani Nelson focuses on writing the stories that she didn’t have growing up– strong, amazing women that would rather receive a sword than a glass slipper. Her debut novel, THE LAST FAOII, is available now. facebook.com/the-last-faoii
TCC Edwards comes from Waterloo, Ontario, and has been enjoying the life of an expat teacher at a university in Busan. He lives just outside Busan with his wonderful wife and two young sons. He helped edit and wrote short stories in four anthologies by the Busan Writing Group, and he has had work published by eFiction Magazines and Every Day Fiction. writeorelse.com / www.facebook.com/tcceauthor / twitter.com/writeorelse
“Uncle Dean in the Canoe” by Nicolina Torres —
Nicolina Torres was a manager for Barnes & Noble for 15 years, in seven stores, and represented B&N on Channel 2’s Living Dayton Show for two years. Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as an adult, she has become an advocate for marginalized people, working with the National Association of Attorneys with Disabilities (NAAD) on mentorship projects and receiving FAMU Law School’s BLSA 2016 Spirit of Service Award for promoting diversity in the legal profession. Her debut novel, This Red Fire (Launch Pad Competition Top 10 Pick) has been optioned by Stampede Ventures and will be released by Inkshares in late 2019. https://nicolinatorres.com
“Die Regeln Galten Hier Nicht” by S.E. Soldwedel —
Evan Graham is the author of upcoming science fiction thrillers Tantalus Depths and Proteus. He has a bachelor’s degree in Education Studies from Kent State University, where he triple-minored in English, Writing, and Theatre. He currently lives in rural Middlefield, Ohio and is extensively involved in local community theatre, both on the stage and behind the scenes. https://www.facebook.com/AuthorEvanGraham/
Becca Spence Dobias is a mom, author, and ukulele player. She grew up in West Virginia and now lives in Southern California. She is the Project Manager for Writing Bloc. BeccaSpenceDobias.wordpress.com
“Alpha” by Aly Welch —
Aly Welch resides in Western New York with her husband and twin sons. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys acting, karate, and yoga. She also loves exploring the woods, and still hopes to find magic behind every tree and under every rock. www.alywelch.com
David Lee worked for forty years in public and private schools as a teacher and counselor. Now retired, he lives in Reno with his wife, dog and three cats. He spends his time reading, writing, and playing with his grandchildren. His blog (davidrlee.blogspot.com) also keeps him busy. davidrlee.blogspot.com
“Loyalty” by Estelle Rose Wardrip —
Estelle Wardrip is a teacher and writer who lives on a small farm in northern California. This is her first published work, hopefully the first of many.
“New Authority” by Patrick Edwards —
After defeating some inter-dimensional shadow monsters, Patrick returned home in time for the weekly tea party thrown by his toddler-aged daughters. The party got too wild, and the police were forced to shut it down. Two dollies and one action figure were arrested. With nothing else to do, Patrick went back to work on the sequel to his debut novel, Space Tripping. https://twitter.com/ThePatEdwards / ThePatEdwards.com
“Headcase” by Mike Donald —
Mike worked for the BBC as a sound mixer, wrote for comedy sketch shows, and developed up sitcom ideas. He was also a script analyst for a gap finance company and has written many award-winning screenplays. Mike lives in Oxford with his wife, and a power-hungry Terrier named Bonny May Donald. www.louisianablood.com / louisianablog.louisianablood.com
Amongst all of our great goals coming to fruition, we here at Writing Bloc have officially launched a podcast! Our aim is to chat about all things writing, with us discussing everything from successes to struggles, answering any of your questions, and interviewing authors we think you should know. We will be updating our main page with an embedded player for easier listening sometime in the near future, but until then, you can hear our first teaser episode on the following outlets:
We call it a “teaser” episode, as this is mostly a pleasant conversation between four of the authors behind Writing Bloc: Jacqui Castle, Christopher Lee, Cari Dubiel, and Michael Haase. We stay mostly on topic, have plenty of fun, and discuss everything from typos in our anthology to making plans to rewrite Fifty Shades of Gray in the style of Stephen King. You know, usual writer stuff.
We had a lot of fun recording this, and we have plans for many, many more. The next recording session is scheduled for Wednesday, May 29th, and we will let you know as soon as it’s posted. The list of writers to be featured with interviews and discussions is growing, and we plan on taking over the world with this podcast, of course. (Isn’t that everyone’s goal with a podcast?)
There are great things happening around the Writing Bloc. Thank you for being a part of them. Stay tuned for more features, perks, and opportunities.
I’ve known Vivien Chien since before she got her first contract. It’s been amazing to watch her star rise, from her #ownvoices debut Death by Dumpling to her latest, Murder Lo Mein, which comes out today! I was lucky enough to host Vivien at the library where I work for her first book launch, and since then, our patrons have been clamoring for her new releases.
Vivien brings real Cleveland flavor to her stories. I’m a native myself, and I love that I can picture her protagonist’s journeys through the city as she solves her puzzles. And if you’re reading them, make sure you have your favorite noodle shop on speed dial, because you will get hungry. Vivien is a master at describing the tasty dishes served by the Ho-Lee Noodle House.
I chatted with Vivien to see what she’s up to these days!
Tell us about the Noodle Shop series.
The Noodle Shop mysteries take place in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio and feature Lana Lee, a late twenty-something Asian-American who is trying to gracefully steer her way through life after hitting a severe rough patch. When we first meet Lana in Death by Dumpling, she is at the beginning of her new adventure, working in her parents’ Chinese restaurant, Ho-Lee Noodle House. Of course, while getting back on her feet, murders ensue. (And wouldn’t that just figure?) The series follows her journey along with a cast of wacky characters who may or may not be considered “dysfunctional.”
What do you like best about MURDER LO MEIN, the third book in the series? What part of it was the most fun to write?
Honestly, I can’t pick just one part of Murder Lo Mein to like best. I have to say this is my favorite one out of the three and I love the story as a whole. (As cheesy as that answer sounds, it’s completely true!) The most fun I had writing were the fortune cookie bits, and the scenes between detective Adam Trudeau and Lana. I really enjoy exploring the dynamic of their budding relationship.
How do you balance a full-time job along with writing your cozies? Do you have any productivity tips?
The balancing act can be a challenge at times, but the end result is completely worth it. I write after work throughout the week and accomplish what I can in about an hour or so. Then a lot of times on the weekends, I’ll have writing marathons that last about 8-10 hours straight. These sessions usually involve mass amounts of coffee and the occasional doughnut.
My best advice on productivity would be to stop making excuses as to why you can’t sit in that chair and write. “Those darn dishes” or “that blasted laundry” will still be there an hour from now. Then once you’re sitting, the next step would be to forget about checking your email, logging into social media, or buying that really awesome bookshelf from Amazon. Those things will also still be there later.
And lastly, I would say, don’t get hung up on perfection. We lose many a minute by worrying how a particular sentence sounds or the problem we find with an entire paragraph. Get it down first, fuss later.
WONTON TERROR is due out in August. What are your plans following that release?
After Wonton Terror, there will definitely be two more books in the Noodle Shop series, and they will follow the same publication schedule of two books released per year. I do also plan on proposing more books in the series to ensure that Lana has a long life in the cozy mystery world.
Aside from these books, I have a few other book proposals up my sleeve. One series involves a female P.I. who will also make a guest appearance in book five of the Noodle Shop mysteries, and the other involves a story-line in the paranormal realm. It will still be a mystery, but it’ll involve a predominantly supernatural cast of characters.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Never give up! I think that is the single most important thing for any writer to know. So many of us can be easily discouraged because writing AND getting published can be a very daunting task. But all you have to do is keep believing in yourself. That is key.