Editing Aids for Writers

I’m what might possibly be referred to as a “perfectionist.”  Maybe.  Just a little. :)

So, in working on this novel thing I’m writing, I’m not willing to release it into the wild until I’m reasonably sure it’s the best it can be without waiting ten years, looking back at it, and seeing how amateurish my writing was ten years ago.  Because that’ll always happen, but I can make this novel the best I can make it now.

Which means editing.  A lot of editing.

The good news is, I have help!  And because I believe in sharing things that make my life better, here are two super, super, SUUUUPER useful links:

  1. Pro Writing Aid
  2. Critters

Descriptions below.

1. Pro Writing Aid

I feel a little bit bad recommending Pro Writing Aid, because the first site I found that uses computational linguistics to do automated critiquing is AutoCrit, which is totally spiffy and which I fell in love with right away.  But Pro Writing Aid is an extremely similar tool that is . . . free.  And I’m a cheap little bugger.  So even though I feel a little bad jumping ship on AutoCrit when it’s the site that got me into using these tools, Pro Writing Aid is amazing, has no word limits, and has even more reports available, so I’m inclined to think it might be the better product anyway.

Here’s what Pro Writing Aid does.  You plug in your text, you hit “analyze,” and you get a myriad of reports on that text, including overused words (according to a comparison with published works), lists of clichés or redundancies the tool found, a histogram of your sentence variation . . . it even checks for spelling consistency with British or American English.

It’s fantastic.  It catches missteps I’ve overlooked a thousand times.

Sometimes, of course, I look at what it tells me and say, “No, I think I’m going to leave that bit the way it is, because I like it better that way.”  And for some chapters I’m not strict about getting my overused word count perfect, especially if I’m checking dialogue.  But at least I’m making a fully informed decision, so to speak, and in some places, the changes it’s forced me into making have strengthened those sections immeasurably.

The reports I consistently find the most useful are Overused Words, Clichés & Redundancies, Repeated Words and Phrases, Phrases Summary (which also catches repeat phrases), and Consistency.  The latter four usually only have a few catches and take me no more than a few minutes to address or decide to leave as they are.  The Overused Words list is the kicker.  It drives me up the wall sometimes, but it also forces my prose to a higher level.

Some of the reports I don’t find very useful—for instance, the Sentiment Report, which gives a running account of whether the text sounds “positive,” “negative,” or “neutral,” is kind of cool to look at and might be helpful if I had zero emotional variation and it poked me into realizing that, but most of the time I don’t use it.  Ditto for the Sentence Variation report, and the Complex Words report I pretty much ignore.

But the great thing about this tool is that you can pick and choose from it.  And at the very least, it pushes me to have an awareness of trends in my writing, trends I’m too close to it to see otherwise.  Give it a try!

2. Critters

I have a crit group  now!  Critters is a scifi / fantasy / horror online critique group[1], is totally free, and is conducted through email.  The commitment is to crit about one manuscript per week (mostly short stories, but some authors send through novel chapters, and there’s an option for getting full novels critiqued).

I like the group immensely—it’s fun, it improves my own writing to be a critter, and although I haven’t run any of my own stuff through the group yet, it will give me a place to do that and get opinions, which is, of course, invaluable.

 

So!  Editing!  I have various other Plans, such as hiring a copy editor for the dialogue of one character who doesn’t have my cultural background and hiring an general-purpose editor to, you know, edit the whole novel (recommendations for freelance editors eagerly solicited!), but these two aids are making editing a much happier place for me right now.

  1. I think workshops are available for other genres too.  I feel like I remember seeing a drop-down for that somewhere on the site.

3 thoughts on “Editing Aids for Writers

  1. Pingback: Writing Communities Online

  2. Layla Lawlor

    I just have to say thank you for the link to Pro Writing Aid. It really could not be better suited to the kind of sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph editing that I’m doing right now, and it’s catching a bunch of stuff I had completely overlooked. (I vaguely remembered that you had linked to something along those lines, then came back and found it tonight, and I’ve been plugging in the chapters I’ve already edited and going, “Oh wow, this is AWESOME!”)

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