There’s no shortage of lists telling you how to use the latest writing app to complete your manuscript, but what are you supposed to do once it’s done? Well, it turns out many of those apps (and a few others) are also helpful during the revision process!
Here are my top five apps and how to use them to revise your manuscript:
1) Scrivener — For organization and story structure analysis
It seems like Scrivener is everyone’s favorite writing app, and I can see why. Scrivener allows for some serious manuscript organization. You can outline your story (even if you didn’t do that at the beginning) all the way down to the scene level. Outlining your story will give you a good overview of its structure and allow you to assess basics. At the very least, you’ll want to make sure you’re hitting the major storytelling beats. At the most, you can analyze each scene to ensure its doing its job on both the macro and micro levels! You can then use the corkboard (my personal favorite feature) to reorganize as necessary. But don’t forget to go back and reread the whole thing after. Your transitions will need smoothing!
Who else has gotten stuck in the Word-induced loop of editing the same fifty pages over and over? I know it’s not just me! An added bonus of Scrivener is the ability to start where you left off or skip to the next part you want to work on.
2) Evernote — For FREE organization and story structure analysis
While Scrivener’s one-time price tag of $45 isn’t prohibitive to some, if you’re only using it to assess your story’s organization you might not want to fork over the dough. In that case, I highly recommend using Evernote. You can get the same level of organization—and first-page loop busting—as your can in Scrivener, minus the drag and drop capabilities. The easiest way to set this up is to create notebooks for every chapter and put those into a single stack that represents the whole book. Scenes can then be written as notes within the notebooks. Moving scenes is as easy as reassigning the notebook; however, Evernote orders things either by date created or date opened, so the scene won’t necessarily make it to the exact spot you want it in your manuscript without some copy and pasting.
Bonus: Evernote has free apps for desktop and mobile devices, making your MS available anywhere, anytime. (Scrivener requires a separate license for each device.)
3) Simplemind Free — For visualizing the complexity and depth of your story
If you’re more of a visual person, this app might work better for you as far as assessing your story structurally. Simplemind is a mind-mapping app, typically used for brainstorming. But I got ahold of their free version and immediately saw the literary possibilities. Maybe you meant to create more of a short arc around two secondary characters, but forgot to weave it in over the course of your first draft. It will be glaringly apparent as you diagram your story.
Using this app, you can create a visual map—including main and sub plots and multiple character arcs—color-coded, no less! This will give you a picture, literally, of how complex your story is . . . or isn’t.
Just a tip from me to you: Set the default layout to Freeform in your preferences. This will let you place the nodes exactly where you want them rather than limiting you to a linear form.
4) Hemingway Editor — For fast line editing
The Hemingway Editor is great for those of us who veer toward the verbose. (See my comments below, re: making the writing sound good.) This app draws your attention to words, phrases, and sentences that can be simplified, with the goal of making your writing bold and clear—like Hemingway’s! Just copy and paste passaged into the web app (or download the newly released desktop app) and it will highlight hard to read sentences, adverbs, and passive voice—oh my! This tool is useful for a quick and dirty clean up of the overly complicated parts of your manuscript, but don’t take it as gospel. Yes, simple sentences are nice and all, but sometimes you need a well-placed adverb.
5) Dragon Naturally Speaking — For adding more you to your story
Let’s face it, sometimes we just get caught up in making our story sound like “good writing.” But more often than not it leaves us with a story that sounds like it was written by a bad Jane Austen impersonator. Readers want to connect with the author as much as the characters, so it’s important for your book to sound like, well, you! I highly endorse not sweating this type of thing on the first draft. Revision time, however, is exactly when you should be focusing on bringing out the you factor.
Voice dictation software is my favorite trick for this. It’s impossible to not sound like yourself if you’re speaking! Apps like Dragon (or if you’re looking for something a little more free, try using the voice memo app built into your phone!) capture the words you actually use, which you can then add to your manuscript. Just turn it on and pretend you’re telling the story to a friend. Some writers complete entire books this way, but it works just as well for punching up the scenes that need it.
Revision can be a daunting part of the writing process. You already wrote the thing and now you have to go back to the beginning? Please, no! These apps will make it easier for you to tackle the challenge!
Megan Hannum is a developmental editor and writing coach at Whynott Edit, helping writers refine their words, strengthen their skills, and tell the best possible version of their stories. It’s been said she has “a supernatural ability to see what’s missing,” which she uses to get writers from completed draft to publishable manuscript. Sign up for a FREE 30-minute consultation to kick-start your revision now!