As a college writing teacher, however, I have been allowed to try out books and online software from big publishers. Most of these books and programs are pretty good. There is one new program called Writer’s Help which looks like it could have true cross-over value to creative writers even though it was created for college students writing papers.
Creative people have varying degrees of exposure to and learning about literature and rules of grammar. In my generation, the only way to be absolutely sure I was writing well, using ellipses and dashes the right way and formatting dialogue correctly, was to buy some sort of grammar reference book for writers, which I did. Now I have at least ten, all very useful. That is the old fashioned way.
Modern writers are just as impatient as modern readers. Half of the student writers in my classes do not bring in dictionaries, for instance; they have internet-access telephones and get dictionary applications on them. All well and fair.
When the student writers have trouble with grammar or word meanings, they might go to ask.com, which will lead them to 25 links dealing with that sort of material. Knowing how time consuming opening each link may be, the student writer gives up if the answer is not found swiftly.
This brings me to creative writers, writing on their own for their own pleasure, sending stories off to magazine contests or simply to be published, unaware that the mistakes in their stories are what keep them from being accepted. What if said people don’t have time to take a class? If they do take a class, what if the teacher doesn’t talk about grammar (as in a creative writing class)?
Writer’s Help is accessible by two -year or four-year subscription, neither of which is very expensive in my opinion. (You would have to take a writing course for four semesters to have that kind of access to an expert.) Since my students were individually able to buy another program that was structured a bit differently on this same publisher’s website, I do not see why non-students could not purchase the access as well. I like the way Writer’s Help allows subscribers to type in questions they need answers to, thereby directing the person to the segment that will explain. Writer’s Help could be worth every penny invested in it if you are trying to polish up a story or book and want to be sure your word usage/punctuation/formatting/verb tense is correct.
For pure content and streamlining of a novel—once you are satisfied with grammar and structure– it would be best to engage the help of a skilled editor for pay or skilled writers on a you-help me/I-help you basis, of course, but for the basics, this is a pretty exciting new online tool. There is a free trial of Writer’s Help for anyone who is interested at http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/
Type Writer’s Help into the search box and its page will come up.