Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Prepping for NaNoWriMo and A Review of Grammarly

** I use Grammerly for proofreading because it's better to be a woman eating chicken, than a woman-eating chicken.**  <--- Fact.

I know that this is a food blog, but I will be talking quite a bit about NaNoWriMo for the next few posts because NaNoWriMo is the reason I even have a food blog in the first place.  It is how I came to know and fall in love with writing.  Thanks to NaNoWriMo I decided to get a degree in Professional Writing and was fortunate enough to get 2 cookbooks published.  So yeah, NaNoWriMo is gonna get some face time here for a bit.  Don't worry, there are some awesome recipe ideas and other too-busy-to-cook tips to come ;)

To all writers/would-be writers:

Today is the first of a very important month.  Yes, Halloween, but October is also known by Wrimos as "Prep Month."  Prep for what?  For the craziest 30 days of the year, also known as NaNoWriMo.  To find out all the ins and outs of Pre-Nano Prep, go to this link, you will thank me.

NaNoWriMo is a collective novel-writing challenge where participants write 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days.  Which 30 days?  All the ones in November.  Why November?  Because NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which happens to be November.  It's scary, exhausting, crazy, gratifying, exhilarating, and it's challenging.

NaNoWriMo is about quantity over quality.  Don't worry about grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc., you can fix it all later using Grammerly.  In order to reach your word goal, you need to do what the pros do - write every day.  I cannot stress this enough.  You need to write at least 1,666 words per day to get to 50,000 of them in 30 days.  If you miss a day though, don't panic, you'll just have to write twice as much the next day.

I'm going to say this again:  Do Not Edit As You Go!  If you edit, you will NOT make it, period. Maybe if you are a seasoned professional writer and/or have decades of writing experience, but for anyone else, forget about it.  This is especially hard to do for those of us who are perfectionists and/or O.C.D., but you have to get the concept of perfection out of your head before you start.  Why?  Because it will be crap, accept that now and it will be easier when you are writing.

Veteran Wrimo Tip:  Whatever you write for NaNoWriMo will most certainly be the worst thing you've ever written (unless you participated in previous years of NaNoWriMo, then maybe this year's will be slightly better).  Accept it and move on or your sanity will be in serious jeopardy.  Don't worry, the month of December is NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month) and that is when you will take important steps to make your crap into something less crappy.  How?  With lots of revision, several drafts, tenacity, and with the help of writing tools like Grammerly.  You can give it a try here.

Now, I was offered a 2-week free trial from Grammerly and I was really excited to give it a go.  I had heard about the program, but I didn't really know how it worked, if it would be too complicated, or if I would even like it.  After using it, I have to admit that it was the most helpful automated proofreading program I had ever used.  It's simple, intuitive, and easy to navigate.  You can copy-paste an entire document into the Grammery editor, or simply upload it, your choice.  It combs the document faster than anything I've ever used, (less than a minute) and found every issue accurately, then broke each issue down to tell me why it was flagged for review.

Here is why I found it so very useful:

1) Not only does it tell you what the problem is (i.e., which grammar rule was broken), but it also explains the sometimes confusing rules of English grammar in simple ways - with examples.  Depending on the issue, the Grammerly editor may provide several incorrect examples so that you can step back from your mistake and look at it in a different way, so that you can better understand how your word, phrase, punctuation, etc., was misused.

2) You can choose to see the long or short explanation of a flagged issue.

3) The editor usually suggests a correction.  Not just a general correction, but one specific to your document, using your exact words and context from your document.  You can choose to change it to the suggested correction, or to ignore it (if you did it on purpose) and go on to the next issue.

4) It lets you know what exceptions to the grammar rules are that you may be breaking, and how they may be exceptions.  If you are still confused as to why an issue was flagged, you can click on "Ask The Community" at the bottom of each explanation box.  This takes you to an email-formatted text platform where you can fill out the subject line, then ask your question in the "Add Details" box.  You can choose to also automatically include the issue in question.  When you click "Post Question" it goes to a community-driven public forum called "Grammerly Answers."

5) It can be used to check the document for plagiarism.

6)  There is a "Synonyms" button for suggested replacement words.

7)  After you have edited your document in the Grammerly editor, you can just click "Copy" or "Download" to get the corrected version back to your computer.

Ok, and these are the parts that I thought were really cool!

  • Right on the editor page, it shows how many issues were found and gives you a score based on issues versus how many words are in the document.
  • There is also a summary list which separates found issues into categories and tells you how many of these issues can be found in each category, then breaks them down for you in detail.  You have the option of saving or printing this report.  It will be saved in PDF format which can be opened with the free downloadable PDF reader - Adobe Acrobat Reader.  This report provides the summary as well as the document with all issues highlighted so that you can easily find them and make any necessary corrections when offline.
  • The "Dashboard" is very helpful for understanding where you need improvement with your grammar by pinpointing what kinds of issues you are having the most, and even links to articles that may help you understand how you can avoid breaking the specific rules of grammar that you are having the most issues with.  
  • The Dashboard page helps you track your progress by taking your average Grammerly scores from all of the documents that you have uploaded into the editor.  The more documents you upload to the Grammerly editor, the more accurate the data.  This data can be viewed and compared by week, month, or year.  It compares your scores from the current document with previous ones so that you can see how your writing has improved or declined.  I find this aspect of Grammerly extremely helpful because I can see whether I'm still making the same grammatical mistakes, correcting them, or whether I've developed some new bad habits.
  • This service can be used for any genre of writing - for fiction and non-fiction authors, students, teachers, bloggers, professionals, technical writers, job applicants, etc.  
Alright, so now I know you are asking, "How much is this awesome service gonna cost me?"  Here's a breakdown:

If you are having trouble reading the details, go here.  Although Grammerly can be used for all sorts of documents by all kinds of people from different walks of life, if you are a writer, or are planning to become one after your epic triumph over NaNoWriMo, you should just go ahead and get the yearly subscription for $139.95, which breaks down to only $11.66 per month.  Come on, you know you spend more than that each week at an unnamed coffee house.  Multiply that by 52 weeks, which would equal something like $600 bucks a year!  So, do yourself a favor - make your coffee at home, (I'll show you how next post) and pay for a subscription to Grammerly.  See, I'm saving you money, and helping your career.  You're welcome.

Grammerly can also help with your emails and social media.  And this part is FREE, so go get it!

Still want more reasons to try Grammerly?  Go here for more info.

Ok guys and gals, that should take care of NaNoWriMo and NaNoEdMo introductions as well as my two cents about some great editing assistance.  Join me next time for more Pre-NaNo Prep suggestions and how to stock up on food stuffs/meal planning for the upcoming challenge of "writing with abandon!"

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