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Mobile Apps for Writing and Editing

Mobile Apps for Writing and Editing

I work from home, and I have what is possibly the most uncomfortable desk chair in the world. Because of that, I spend less time in front of a computer now than I have in years, and even though I plan to upgrade the chair eventually, I have secretly appreciated the motivation to stand up and move around.

So while I still do my final writing and editing work on a laptop, a lot of my preparation—jotting down notes, collecting research, outlining drafts, etc.—is done using my phone or my tablet.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite mobile apps for writers and editors. (These are all available on iOS because that's what I'm familiar with, but I would love recommendations from Android users. Leave a comment, tweet at me, send a smoke signal, etc.)

Organizing Ideas, Notes, and Research

Squarespace Note

If my brain won't turn off as I'm trying to sleep, I open Squarespace Note, type out whatever thoughts are jumbling around, swipe up, and relax. I have my "swipe up" setting configured to email me whatever content I just typed, which makes the app like a virtual Post-It note but always legible and always in the same place (my email inbox, not the crevice between my bed and my nightstand). The "swipe up" feature can also be configured to send to Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox, or a Squarespace blog; you can even have multiple destinations and mix and match on a whim.

Great for: Notes to self
Price: Free
Download: iPhone/iPad, Android

MindNode

The MindNode app is a recent addition for me (and only because Starbucks offered it as a free download), but I can already see how useful it will be. Normally, I shy away from mind maps and other forms of brainstorming that can't be neatly contained on a single index card, but the MindNode app gives me the tidiness I crave while encouraging flexibility and creativity. It's a great way to outline a story, create a diagram of the audience you want to reach, set goals, etc. Read this article from The Sweet Setup for a more comprehensive review.

Great for: Brainstorming, outlining
Price: $9.99
Download: iPhone/iPad

Microsoft OneNote

The OneNote app has replaced Evernote for me as my go-to place for storing and organizing notes and reference materials. In large part, this is because the colored, horizontally-aligned tabs of OneNote make a lot more sense to me than the never-ending clusters of document titles in Evernote. Because I can visualize where my content is stored, the process of organizing and then later retrieving my information is a lot easier (and more pleasant). I keep my blog post ideas in OneNote along with quotes from books, articles, and podcasts. Because OneNote syncs across all my devices, I can add to those notes from my mobile devices and then use them at my laptop when I'm ready to write or edit.

Great for: Storing and organizing notes and reference materials
Price: Free
Download: iPhone/iPad, Android, Windows Phone

Writing

Byword

There are many great mobile text editors on the market, but Byword is my personal favorite. (It's also The Sweet Setup's favorite Markdown writing app for the iPhone.) It syncs flawlessly between multiple devices, so I can start a document on my phone whenever inspiration strikes, work on it from my tablet while I'm waiting for a meeting to start, and then put the finishing touches in place from my laptop. It is simple to use and gives me access to formatting features, document search, word count, and more, yet it is cleverly designed to get out of the way when I need to write without distractions.

Great for: Distraction-free writing
Price: $5.99
Download: iPhone/iPad

OmniOutliner

The Omni Group makes phenomenal apps, and OmniOutliner is no exception. Their description sums it up perfectly: "a start-to-finish writing app." I particularly like OmniOutliner for long-form writing, when I know I will want to add structure to a document and rearrange it as the piece develops. Work with the document as a whole—highlight, indent, search, format, and style—or split the piece into sections for better focus. Again, there is plenty of power and flexibility within the app to do what I want, but none of it gets in the way of the writing process.

Great for: Long-form writing
Price: $29.99
Download: iPhone/iPad

Proofreading and Editing

Merriam-Webster Dictionary & Thesaurus

As a proofreader and copy editor, I spend a lot of time referencing a dictionary (I frequently mess up the number of double consonants in "millennium") and a thesaurus (maybe "loquacious" isn't quite as good a fit as "elaborate"). Merriam-Webster is highly regarded among professional writers and editors, so I greatly appreciate the work they've invested in creating and maintaining quality mobile apps.

Great for: Verifying and correcting spelling and word usage
Price: $3.99
Download: iPhone/iPad, Android, Windows Phone

PDFpen 2

If I want to do serious mark-ups on a digital manuscript, I will save the document as a PDF, open it in PDFpen 2 on my iPad, and trade in my red pen for a red stylus. The app allows me to draw directly on the PDF, so I can cross out an unwieldy paragraph and make a note about it in the margin without needing a printer, paper, or a pen. This has become my preferred way to do the first round of edits when I can't work on a paper copy, since the physical act of doodling helps me recognize big patterns (frequently crossing out a certain phrase, fixing capitalization on a certain word, etc.). The app has many other features, like text editing and password protection, making it a great investment for anyone who works with PDFs.

Great for: Marking up digital manuscripts
Price: $19.99
Download: iPhone/iPad

I hope these apps help you with your writing and editing! Leave a comment if I missed anything or if you want to talk more the apps I listed.


P.S. I currently have availability for copy editing jobs or proofreading jobs.

Tools for Self-publishing in 2016

Tools for Self-publishing in 2016

In 2016, I am helping my dad fulfill his dream of writing and publishing a book. (Hurray!) The first project we're working on is a book of silly poems—written by my dad from the perspective of our melodramatic dog. This is not intended to be a bestseller, and we really just want to have a few dozen print copies to share with (and maybe sell to) friends, family members, and gracious coworkers. If it's a surprise success, we will want the flexibility to print more and also expand into an e-book.

Self-publishing gives us the flexibility we need: it allows us to print and digitally distribute the book on our own schedule and also react quickly to real-life demand.

Also, it's fun. I have been delighted by the process of self-publishing so far, and I wanted to share with you the tools I've been using to make that an enjoyable experience.


Proofreading and Copy Editing

As a professional proofreader and copy editor, I would be remiss if I did not stress the importance of having another set of eyes look at your written work—whether that's a book of silly poems about your dog or a novel you've been crafting your whole life.

Self-editing

Start by asking a trusted friend or colleague to read through to help you find basic typos and errors. Also, I would recommend using the built-in spelling check in Microsoft Word (and the grammar check, if you feel confident enough to disagree with it when it's wrong) or an equivalent service online, like Grammarly. If you end up hiring a professional, you will spend less money if you do this small bit of self-editing work first.

Professional Copy Editing

Copy editing is different than proofreading, and you should hire a copy editor before you hire a proofreader. The copy editor's job is to dig in—to look at sentence structure, word choice, usage, grammar, spelling, formatting, and even the overall flow and organization of the content. A good copy editor will be an advocate for your writing. When I do copy editing, I try to eliminate any potential "tripping hazards" for the reader while maintaining the unique voice of the author. Basically, the copy editor helps the author communicate with the audience and helps the audience understand the author.

If you're looking to hire a freelance copy editor, check out the Editorial Freelancers Association or any of the directories listed here.

Professional Proofreading

After a project has been copy edited (and after it has been formatted for printing or e-book distribution), it should be submitted to a proofreader. A good proofreader will focus on corrections instead of revisions—weeding out any lingering errors but also paying attention to details like a change in font size or the way a paragraph breaks across two pages.

If you're looking to hire a freelance proofreader, check out the Editorial Freelancers Association or any of the directories listed here.

Layout and Publishing

Print Publishing

I decided to use Blurb for this print project for three reasons:

  1. Blurb offers several great formatting and layout options. I am using their plug-in for Adobe InDesign, my software of choice for laying out content and formatting text and images. InDesign is an industry standard, so I could easily find a professional designer to help me do the work. Blurb also offers a free download of Bookwright, which is specifically designed for formatting print and digital books. If you prefer some other software solution, that's fine, too; Blurb accepts PDF uploads of pre-formatted content.
  2. The pricing at Blurb is really reasonable, both for print and digital projects.
  3. It is really easy to sell a product (print or digital) through Blurb. The site has its own online bookstore, but Blurb also provides thorough how-to guides for using Amazon and Apple iBooks.

Another decent option for print publishing is Lulu. Their website and services don't look quite as polished, but I regularly reference their knowledge base for information on ISBNs and other print book distribution requirements.

[EDITED, 01.16.16:] Thanks to @joeld for adding Amazon CreateSpace to the list. CreateSpace also lacks the polished look of Blurb but makes up for that with an immense pool of free resources for new authors.

Digital Publishing

Again, my tool of choice for creating an e-book is Blurb. The above list still applies: it has great tools for making a product that looks good, the cost is very reasonable, and the options for selling are exactly what I want.

If you want to research some wonderful alternatives, check out Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing or Apple's iBooks Author. Both come highly recommended by friends who have successfully published (and sold) their own e-books.

Cover Design

I will be blunt here: self-published books have introduced a lot of ugly book cover designs into the world. No one enjoys seeing an ugly book cover on a shelf, even a digital shelf, so please make room in your budget to hire a designer.

If you want to meet with someone face-to-face, find a local design studio (my local AlphaGraphics franchise has always produced phenomenal work) and ask to see samples or a portfolio before getting an estimate. If you're comfortable communicating what you want online, contact designers you like from Dribbble or Behance or ask to be paired with a freelance designer at a site like Upwork.

Promotion and Distribution

I have less research on this element than I do on the others because my dad and I have pretty modest plans for promoting this first project. However, plenty of really clever people have put together guides and tutorials for 1) building a community and an audience and 2) sharing and selling your published work.

I hope these tools help you accomplish your goals this year! Leave a comment if I missed anything or if you have a question about self-publishing.


 

P.S. I currently have availability for copy editing jobs or proofreading jobs.

 

Words to Live By and Clichés to Live Without

Words to Live By and Clichés to Live Without

Learn new words, avoid overused and incorrect phrases, and find some unusual (maybe even outlandish) alternatives.


Here & Now | New Dictionary Words for 2015 →

In this five-minute podcast episode, Steve Kleinedler explains the process of how the American Heritage Dictionary editing staff determines which words should be added in a given year and also how they assess potential weak areas in their dictionary. Fun note: "humblebrag" made it into at least one dictionary this year.

You Don't Say | Christmas Is Coming. You Have Been Warned. →

This list of holiday clichés was shared with great enthusiasm during a recent Twitter chat with members of the American Copy Editors Society. Tradition has its place, especially during the holiday season, but no one is charmed by emails that claim "'tis the season" to buy a new toaster.

Independent | The 58 Most Commonly Misused Words and Phrases →

I hereby confess that I spent many years thinking "bemused" was a synonym of "amused," and I had a bit of a melodramatic meltdown when I learned the error of my ways. (How many books did I misread? Oh, the horrors!) This article explains that exact mix-up along with several other understandably confusing English words and phrases.

Bemused means bewildered and does not mean amused. Correct: The unnecessarily complex plot left me bemused. The silly comedy amused me.

Ironic Sans | Thsrs →

This cute thesaurus was inspired by Twitter many years ago and functions just like a traditional thesaurus—except it only returns shorter synonyms. If you've ever run out of characters in a tweet and wished you had something to help you condense your content, this is the tool for you.

Merriam-Webster →

The Merriam-Webster website is now responsive! This new design—which should look great on any device and any size screen—has been in beta testing for a while, and it finally went public this week. The focus is on the content, which loads quickly (without a barrage of advertisements). All in all, it's a beautiful redesign, and it makes me excited to use an online dictionary and thesaurus for the first time in years.

Creating a Beautiful Website for Your New Book

Creating a Beautiful Website for Your New Book

In November, Squarespace announced a new subscription plan for people who simply want to set up a landing page or cover page—a one-page website, basically. This is a fantastic option for authors who want to promote a new book (and for writers or editors who want to create an online résumé). You don't need to know how to code, every subscription includes hosting, and annual subscriptions include a free domain name. You can choose from a variety of themes, customize the look, and switch between themes and styles at no cost as often as you like. (Bonus: all of Squarespace's themes are responsive, which means they look great on any device and any screen size without any extra effort on your part.) Most importantly, Squarespace offers 24/7 support, so you can focus on character development and let someone else figure out why all of the links on your website are suddenly upside-down.

 Sample launch page for a book called  My Fake Autobiography.

Sample launch page for a book called My Fake Autobiography.

Plans are priced really competitively and start at $60/year (or $7/month if you aren't interested in committing for a full year). When you factor in the domain name, hosting, 24/7 support, and a selection of beautiful and responsive themes, it's a great price for a really important investment.

This sample page took me five minutes to make, and most of that time was spent coming up with silly placeholder text.

No Coding Skills Required

I have a background in web design, so I frequently get requests from friends who want help setting up a website for a small business. Squarespace is my top recommendation because it allows me to help someone create a beautiful website and then easily show that person how to update their own site. If you want to change a font, you choose it from a dropdown. If you want to change a color, you select it from a color wheel. Even for a full website like Second Breakfast Media, I arrange the content by dragging and dropping the different elements where I want them (includes text, images, videos, etc.). If you're familiar with something like Microsoft Word or Pages, you should have no trouble creating a beautiful website with Squarespace.

Free Hosting and Domain Name

Setting up the hosting and domain name (the URL, like "secondbreakfast.me" or "yourbooktitle.com") for a new website can be daunting, and it usually costs me $10-15/month just for those two things. Squarespace is a game-changer. Hosting is included with the price of every subscription, and you can register a free domain name with any annual subscription purchase. (If you already have a domain name registered somewhere else, Squarespace has really wonderful tutorials to help walk you through the process of linking your domain name with your Squarespace account.)

Beautiful, Responsive Themes

It is really hard to make a Squarespace site look bad. Every single one of their themes is beautiful on its own, and with a few minor modifications, you can make it fit your own style. Change the fonts, images, colors, sizes, and alignment without any coding knowledge—all with a live preview of what it will look like on your desktop or mobile device. As I mentioned earlier, you can switch themes at any point (all themes are free to use), and every design is responsive, so it will automatically restructure your website's content to look good no matter what size screen its viewed on.

24/7 Support

I have lost count of how many times I have tweeted at or sent an email to Squarespace support, and they have always been quick to respond and diligent in finding a solution to my problem. Sometimes, I've made a mess of my own site and need help getting out of a picklet; other times, I've discovered a unique problem that Squarespace is quick to acknowledge and fix. This alone is worth the cost of the subscription, in my opinion. (Learning about web design is really fun, but crawling through dusty forums in a panic while your website is imploding is not fun.)

Use the official Squarespace coupon code (GIMME10) to get 10% off any annual purchase.


Note: Squarespace is what I use to design and host the Second Breakfast Media website and blog, but this post is not sponsored. I am simply a happy customer who cannot stop recommending this product/service to everyone.