Writing Apps: Part 2

CC image by Philip Rood

In my last post, I reviewed three writing-related apps for the writer that’s always on the go. Today, I’d like to review three more for you. Some are more useful than others, but they’re all quite amusing in their own way. Enjoy.

Writing Exercises and Prompts
What it is: An app that dispenses writing exercises—pretty self-explanatory. According to the makers, it provides “simple, yet effective, writing prompts to kick-start creative writing!”

Writing Exercises and Prompts

Pros: You’re able to randomly select exercises based on a few different criteria: first line, subject, character, and plot. For example, you could select “random first line” and get, “The urge to interrupt him before he had finished was overwhelming.” Or you could select “random character” and get, “A restless, 19-year-old woman who comes from a wealthy background, lives in a caravan and tends to drink too much.” My favorite feature of this app is the “Favourites” function, which allows you to save exercises you’re particularly fond of/those you’re working on for later. If this function weren’t built into the app, you’d lose the previous exercise every time you randomly generated a new one.

Cons: After using the app a few times, the exercises show themselves to be rather formulaic. It’s almost as if they threw a bunch of phrases, ages, and adjectives into a pot, stirred it, and poured them out into little bowls to make each exercise. For example, if you generate an exercise based on character, you might get a 48-year-old woman who comes from a comfortable background one time, and then you’ll get a 48-year-old woman who comes from a poor background the very next time. I suppose I just hope for a little more creativity in writing exercises, as I find it hard to become inspired when the prompts themselves are uninspired.

Poets & Writers Local
What it is: An app from the publishers of the magazine Poets & Writers that allows you to see literary events and venues in your area. According to the makers: “Find readings and author events; connect with your local literary community.”

Poets and Writers Local

Pros: I love the heart behind this app, as I’ve spent many hours trying to find literary events in Albuquerque, often with little success. For some reason, there’s no central database for this kind of information (and if you know of one, please tell me in the comments). Instead, I’ve had to look in tiny local newspapers and ask around to find readings and the like. This app is also very easy to use—enter a city (or use your phone’s GPS), and boom, you can find literary events, reading venues, literary places (e.g., bookstores), and city guides.

Cons: To my knowledge, this app relies upon users to report events happening in their area, rather than pulling information from the web at large (which would make for a very sophisticated app, indeed). What this means is that the usefulness of the app is completely dependent on the users. For example, the vast majority of the time, no literary events come up for Albuquerque with the app, but I know full well that there are often events at UNM and other venues; this leads me to believe that folks just don’t report these events/there aren’t many users of the app in NM. However, for other cities, like NYC (publishing capital of the United States), you can find dozens of events on any given day. So this app might be great, depending on where you live.

Book Writer Free
What it is: A social publishing app. The makers say: “Be creative, write books, stories, or poems. Share with others.” Sadly, for this app, I’ll have to list the cons first. The pros wouldn’t make sense without them.

Book Writer Free

Cons: First, I’ll tell you how it works. You create your author profile, which is simply a user name, where you’re from, and your bio. Then you write using the app. Not just write, though—write books (typically shorter books, but there may be folks who use it to write full-length books). After your masterpiece is complete, you can write a synopsis, upload an image for a book cover, and then BAM! You’re ready to publish and share. You can follow other authors and read their books, and they can follow you and your books.
So, what’s the problem, you ask? Well, think about the shit show that is Amazon e-books—thousands and thousands of self-published books that, nine times out of ten, are utter garbage. Unedited, poorly written, laughably designed books. The books you’ll find on Book Writer are worse. I mean, it’s bad. I’m sorry if I sound overly harsh to the self-publishing, e-book world; I really am thankful for the open market and the ability/freedom to publish whatever the heck you want. I suppose I’ll have to save the full extent of my feelings toward self-publishing for another post, for they are many and complicated. For now, just know that when it comes to Book Writer, quality is NOT the priority.
Picture spiral notebooks full of “books” written by moody high school freshmen with no control of language or even basic grammar. Picture stories full of incoherent drivel written by someone who thinks they’re the Kafka of their generation. Picture books on “how to be a great writer” that are riddled with misspellings and incomplete sentences. It’s rough.

CC image by Philip Rood

CC image by Philip Rood

Pros: It’s good for a laugh. And who knows? If you’re dedicated enough and have the resilience that I do not, maybe you’ll find a real gem to read.

Do you all use any writing apps? Have you tried any of those I’ve reviewed? I’d love to know what you’re using and what you think of it—let me know in the comments.

By Madeleine Mozley