Automated Editing Tools—Is One Right for You?

image by testbytes

Automated help in editing material intrigues most writers. I looked at six online automated editing tools. I chose the ones that were free or had free options, hoping to buy one that fit my budget and editing needs.

For a nice overview of free and for-sale editing tools, I recommend “INSTANTLY IMPROVE YOUR WRITING WITH THESE 11 EDITING TOOLS” on the NY Book Editors blog.

My Approach to Evaluating Automated Editing Tools

image by geralt

 

I entered the same excerpt from an old unpublished manuscript into the free online edit boxes for the following automated editing services:

 

 

After the Deadline

EditMinion

Grammarly

Hemingway Editor

ProWritingAid

Slick Write

Below is what I learned. Remember, I only tried the free options.

These services point us to areas in our manuscripts that may need a second look. When we enter our material into these tools, we’re responsible for what we change in our manuscripts. We must remain in charge.

If we make a change without scanning nearby sentences, we may cause a new problem. For example, the automated program may suggest a stronger word, but the stronger word has already been used once or twice in the paragraph, causing repetitive word usage.

Using two or more free services may catch more problems. For example, passive-writing flags were different among the tools, suggesting they have different criteria for what is passive writing. One service flagged just, a weasel word, the others didn’t.

image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

The free tools didn’t do well on problems such as missing quotation marks and two spaces between sentences. The grammar and spelling checks in word processing programs are still important.

I liked ProWritingAid best.

 

What I Liked About ProWritingAid

Among other benefits, here’s what I liked about ProWritingAid’s tool.

ProWritingAid states on its site “ProWritingAid never stores, shares or resells your text.”

I can click on 10 tabs: Summary, Style, Grammar, Overused, Readability, Clichés, Sticky, Diction, All Repeats, and Echos, which concentrate on specific tests.

I can look at ProWritingAid’s extensive evaluation of my excerpt in the Summary tab. It offers easy to print, open in a new window, and email options. I like its suggested limits on such items as adverbs used and repeated sentence starts.

ProWritingAid gives a word substitute for a wordy phrase.

It attempts to highlight instances when the writer tells a feeling instead of showing it.

image by Hans

It tries to catch words that should be hyphenated or a homonym (you’re) that is incorrect for the meaning (your).

When I hover over the underlined, color-coded flagged phrases, ProWritingAid, gives possible problems and suggestions for the correction.

 

It caught more of the problems I hoped the tools would flag than the other tools.

ProWritingAid’s free version was very good, but I bought the premium version.

If you’re looking for an editing tool to supplement your editing, I suggest you try out each of the tools mentioned in the post and other services you find in a search.

My search for an automated editing tool among free ones. Click to tweet.

What automated editing tools do you use and why?

10 Writing Mistakes That Give Readers Heartburn

image by Brett_Hondow
image by Brett_Hondow

These mistakes could irritate and lose your readers for your current book and all your future books.

  1. Insufficient grounding. The reader struggles to establish the who, where, and when from the beginning of a book or scene.
  • The age of the character’s son isn’t revealed. The reader thinks he’s three years old, but then the child’s vocabulary is advanced for three.
  • Information is withheld at the beginning as a device to add fun. Confusion isn’t fun.
  • Where the heroine lives is missing. The reader wonders whether the heroine’s move to Florida is as burdensome as she laments.
  1. Inconsistencies.
  • The author tells the reader a character lacks accounting knowledge. Later, the character gabs knowledgeably about accounts receivable.
  • The author tells the reader that a character is cruel, but the character’s actions and dialogue show the character is a caring person.
  1. image by Meditations
    image by Meditations
    Pulling solutions from the sky. The reader anticipates a clever solution to a character’s predicament.
  • The heroine loses everything. Her child needs surgery desperately. An acquaintance dies and leaves her $100,000 because he’s always admired her spunk.
  • Plot setups are missing from the book’s first half, so later, the author has the character talk about behind-the-scene events to make the weak plot work.
  1. Poor transitions. After time breaks or switching to another character’s point of view (POV), the reader lacks sufficient information to shift gears.
  • Whose POV is she in?
  • A new place isn’t mentioned, but the setting seems different.
  • The time appears earlier than when leaving the last character’s POV. Is the story going backward?
  1. Cliches. The story reeks of tired phrases:
  • She was never at a loss for words, and she had ants in her pants.
  • As luck would have it, her dog was the ace in the hole.
  • Around Mark, she was all thumbs, which put her back at square one.

 

image by kaboompics
image by kaboompics

6.  Excessive details. The reader skims, looking for substance and the plot.

  • Five paragraphs written about setting the table.
  • Obvious motives explained, or an action is reiterated in another way; information repeated.
  • Topics belabored in dialogue or internal thoughts.
  1. Awkward sections. The reader reads a sentence or paragraph three times, then gives up.
  • Vague words used (it and that, and she referring to one of three possible women).
  • Words or phrases are put together so the sentence makes no sense.
  1. Misusing secondary characters.
  • The long description of a character makes the reader think the character is important to the plot. The character never reappears.
  • A secondary character serves no purpose in developing the hero or the plot and distracts the reader from the hero’s story.
  1. image by d97jro
    image by d97jro
    Suspension of belief. Disbelief wrenches the reader from the story.
  • The character’s excessive or dramatic emotions (or lack of emotions) don’t match the seriousness of events.
  • The character suddenly has knowledge or a super power that was never hinted at previously.
  1.  Unresolved Subplots.
  • The reader anticipates learning who the baby’s father is, but the father’s identity isn’t revealed.

Don’t lose readers because of these 10 writing mistakes. Click to tweet.

What makes you put a book down permanently?

A 50-Item Checklist You Won’t Want to Leave Your Scene Without

“Scenes are capsules in which compelling characters undertake significant actions in a vivid and memorable way that allows the events to feel as though they are happening in real time.”

—Jordan E. Rosenfeld (Make a Scene)

checklist  

Scene Checklist

Purpose

[  ] Has 3 reasons the scene should exist. Possibilities:

  • Progresses or changes character’s goal
  • Moves plot forward
  • Adds conflict between opposing characters
  • Introduces a character
  • Develops a character
  • Foreshadows
  • Raises stakes

Structure

[  ] Clear beginning, middle, climax (disaster), and end. 

[  ] Opening hook – lines that grab reader.

[  ] Opens mid action – not description or explanation.

[  ] Action scenes – goal->conflict->disaster. 1

[  ] Reaction scene – response->dilemma->decision. 1

[  ] Point of view (POV) character – character with the most to lose in the scene – reveal immediately.

[  ] Reader immediately grounded in who, what, where, when, why.

[  ] Setting – revealed through what POV character reacts to, sees, hears, does.

[  ] Something’s at stake, or story stakes are raised or reinforced – make situation worse, or stakes matter more.

[  ] Fear hovers – character might not meet her scene goal.

[  ] Actions –interesting; advance plot or exhibit character; performed in real time. 

[  ] Pace – appropriate for what’s happening.

[  ] Mood, tone, or author’s voice – realistic for scene, and the book’s genre.

[  ] Obstacles – people, events, emotions, secrets get in the way of characters meeting their goals.

[  ] Climax (disaster) – relevant to the plot or characterization.

[  ] Element of suspense, surprise, twist, or foreshadowing – creates anticipation; delivers a worthy payoff relevant to plot or characterization.

[  ] Metaphor or symbol.

[  ] Ending hook – transitions to next scene; entices reader to read on.

Hero/Heroine

[  ] Clear wants, emotional and physical – drive actions, dialogue, thoughts.

[  ] Pushes away from something negative; pulls toward something positive (emotional or physical). 1

[  ] A hint of victory; two hints of failure. 1

[  ] Conflicting values.

[  ] Reader can identify or empathize; knows whom to root for.

[  ] Secondary characters – clear purpose for being in scene.

[  ] Hints of wounds, fears. Or competencies.

[  ] Reactions shown – to stimuli that affect feelings.

[  ] Balanced emotion, dialogue, internalization (considering scene type).

[  ] 5 senses included – sight, sound, taste, touch, smell.

Dialogue

[  ] Tight, every word needed.

[  ] Interesting; moves scene forward.

[  ] Natural – leaves out boring parts of actual dialogue.

[  ] Characters’ voices – distinctive; could know speaker by his word choices.

[  ] Reveals or hints at emotions, undercurrents, or secrets.

[  ] Reveals character, plot, conflicts, or bits of important information.

[  ] Includes a zinger – jibe, bold truth, dry or humorous comment. 1

[  ] Action beats or simple speaker attributes (said) – identifies speaker.

Avoid

[  ] Clichés – in dialogue, characterization, plot.

[  ] Coincidences (something drops in to save the day).

[  ] Vagueness (it, that, pronouns that don’t tie, etc.).

[  ] Clever writing that adds nothing; confuses.

Remove

[  ] Boring, purposeless sentences and paragraphs.

[  ] Detailed body movement descriptions.

[  ] Unnecessary explanations.

[  ] Weasel words – except when they work in dialogue.

Style

[  ] Shows often; tells as needed.

[  ] Clear, concise, uncomplicated sentences.

[  ] Correct words (dictionary and thesaurus).

[  ] Power noun, verbs.

[  ] Short narratives when necessary (getting from one place to another).

[  ] Active voice – limit “was.”

[  ] Positive form used when possible.

[  ] Backload – ending words (sentence and paragraph) that tie to passage’s meaning.

Idea from Susan May Warren’s MBT Deep Thinkers Retreat manual.

Transform your scene with this comprehensive checklist. Click to tweet.

What would you add to this checklist?