Meet the Founder of ProWriting Aid
As we launch Our Write Side into the writing community today we must express our gratitude to ProWriting Aid for their support. Their belief in our dream and sponsorship of our efforts has allowed us to make leaps forward in our progress! Additionally, using the ProWriting Aid tools has allowed us to drastically improve both our writing and our editing skills. ProWriting Aid is simple to use and offers a wide array of editing options.
Introduce yourself, if you would?
Hi, I’m Chris Banks, founder of ProWritingAid. I started ProWritingAid just over 3 years ago to help writers like myself learn and improve.
Tell us a little about the history behind ProWriting Aid. What motivated you to develop this software?
I conceived ProWritingAid while I was writing a novel (an archeo-thriller – is that a genre?). I was used to writing research pieces and was frustrated by adapting my writing style to fiction. My background in statistical analysis meant that I began to look for measures that distinguished fiction from academic writing, and good writing from bad writing. I built a basic app to use those measure to find issues in my work so that I could fix them. ProWritingAid grew out of that and continues to evolve.
Do you have a mission statement? Would you share it?
Help people improve their writing. Writing is one of the most important things that we do, but many people find it difficult or frustrating. ProWritingAid allows you to improve your writing in your own time by providing you with unbiased feedback.
Writing is a big business. What sets your product apart from the rest?
I developed ProWritingAid foremost to help other writers. That’s why we’ll always have a free version of the app. The premium version offers great perks to users like Word and Google Docs add-ons, customizable reports and soon, a desktop version, but the free version is comprehensive and effective. We are also committed to providing premium licences to schools and universities at cost prices.
How is ProWritingAid different from my usual grammar-checker or a human editor?
Where ProWritingAid excels is at finding sentences that should be changed, not because they are grammatically incorrect, but because they are not as clear or as strong as they could be.
Some reports have been built based techniques have been passed down by writers for generations, like reducing reliance on adverbs or passive voice. Others have been developed more recently and are based on statistics. The app can scan your document in seconds and highlight repetitious phrases or structures so that you can add more variety. It can create a visual representation of your whole document so that you can assess your sentence length variety. It can find all those overly long and overly complicated sentences so that you can improve their clarity. The app doesn’t fix them for you, it just highlights potential pitfalls so that you can reassess them to make sure that you are getting your ideas across in the best way possible.
You should think of it as a two-step process: you use the editing tool to improve the technical elements of your writing so that your human editor is freed up to focus on content and style. We just did a guest post here that talks more about when to use a human and when to use an editing tool.
What are your goals for yourself and the company in the next 3-5 years?
There’s a lot going on at the ProWritingAid HQ. A desktop version of the app is nearly ready for release as well as a Chrome extension. We want to make the app available wherever people write. I’m also experimenting with a new idea to help writers explore ideas and find inspiration. Hopefully, that will become a viable product.
Do you have a tutorial to help new users learn the full functionality of your software?
We designed the app to work at different levels, from basic grammar to some incredibly in-depth technical analysis. You learn as you go along. There are help links embedded within each report, ongoing tip and techniques in our blog and (if you are having trouble sleeping) there is a 75-page manual.
What is the biggest challenge you faced in launching your software?
Word for Mac. It does not support advanced add-ins like ours and our users ask for it all the time. The desktop app, which is coming out soon, will allow Mac users to work directly on Word documents, as well as other formats like Scrivener.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The first time a user emailed to say thanks for helping him get his book published. That was a great moment. These days, it’s amazing how many people email just to say thanks. I love helping users so still read all the feedback emails we get sent. They’re also great for helping decide the future direction of the product.
What social media site has been your most productive for marketing and promotion?
Most of our traffic comes from word-of-mouth within writing circles. In fact, in the beginning, we could see from emails as it moved through different groups and genres. We had a strong following right in the beginning in the Vampire Romance genre. Writers have a strong support community and if someone finds a tool they like, they recommend it to their peers.
I’ve noticed that you refer to drafts on your Facebook page. Are you a writer yourself? Is everyone on your staff a writer?
I love writing. I used to write a lot for my job and spent a lot of my free time working on fiction. At the moment, it’s taking a backseat to ProWritingAid. I don’t know if everyone on staff is a writer, but I look to hire people who share my love of words.
We see that there is a blog on your site. What do you use your blog for? Is the content created in-house or do you accept submissions?
The blog is a place to find useful writing tips and techniques. Some posts are practical, others are motivational. We have great content writers in-house but we are always looking for inspiring guest bloggers so get in touch if you would like to submit a post (but run your post through ProWritingAid before you send it in!).
NaNoWriMo is coming up soon, will anyone on your team be participating? Will you be sponsoring the project?
We sponsored NaNoWriMo last year, and it was great. This year we are sponsoring other writing events so we reach as many writers as possible. I don’t think any of our staff are doing it this year, but they have done it in the past and got some great writing out of it.
We know you have an affiliates program, would you like to share how that works?
It’s simple really. If you have a writing website, you can sign up for the affiliate program and then earn a 50% commission of any sales that result from your promotion of ProWritingAid. It helps us find new users and helps writers earn a bit of money from their website – it’s a win-win situation.
Who is your favorite author and why?
If I had to pick a favourite book of all time I think it would be John Fowles’ The Magus but I also love magical realism like Louis De Bernier or Isabel Allende. Mario Puzo is also a favourite. I love his ability to write gripping backstory.
What advice do you have for new writers?
Write. Rewrite. Write again. Rewrite some more. Keep writing. Learn as much as you can about the technical elements of writing. The more you write, the more you learn.
What is the future of writing?
Technology will offer writers more. We’ve only touched the surface of what’s possible. We hope to be a big part of making life easier for writers in the future.
Give us your elevator pitch. What can you say that will send our subscribers to your website so they can enjoy this software?
It’s free, so there’s nothing to lose. Even the premium version costs less than one hour of a professional copy editor’s time. You’ll be amazed at what you learn about your writing by using the app.
Here’s a post written by Lisa Lepki, a staffer at ProWritingAid, that offers a fantastic breakdown of all the different editing tools it contains.
You can get your ProWriting Aid premium subscription here. Also, be sure to subscribe to Our Write Side to receive an exclusive discount!