Welsh indie author Karl Drinkwater shares his thoughts and recommendations on the many writing and editing apps and tools available to help self-published writers make their work the best they can be.
Intuition and human experience combine in successful writing and editing. However, just as chess software can analyse thousands of options per second, software can also analyse thousands of words quicker and more consistently than a human. We want our books to be as good as they can be, so the canny writer makes use of whatever tools work for them to create a bibliographic arsenal.
During a discussion with some other writers recently I found out that they didn’t know writing analysis tools existed, so here’s a summary of the ones I’m aware of. But first of all, an overview of my writing process:
During a discussion with some other writers recently I found out that they didn’t know writing analysis tools existed, so here’s a summary of the ones I’m aware of.
Free! Paste text into the box, choose which things you want it to report on (I tend to leave it on the defaults), and click “Edit”. You’ll get a summary analysis, then when you scroll down you’ll see your text with some of the words highlighted – hover over them to find out why (the colours should match the summaries at the bottom right of the browser). The main things EditMinion points out are: adverbs to consider removing; weak words: homonyms; prepositions at the end of a sentence; passive voice; clichés.
Free! Select the sample text, delete it, paste in your own. The tool is live, immediately reporting on what you’ve pasted or typed. It will point out sentences which are complex and you might want to simplify; and like EditMinion, it will highlight passive voice and adverbs. A nice extra feature is a readability grade, and Hemingway App is also good for flagging up phrases with simpler alternatives.
As the name suggests, this is purely for consistency – it does not do the checks mentioned in the tools above, so is a useful addition rather than a replacement. Upload a document; download their report. It will flag up things like inconsistent spelling and hyphenation.
The full version requires an account and subscription fee. You can get an idea of what it does without paying, or even ask them to set you up with a free trial. AutoCrit will give you summaries and statistics about the work, a visual guide to sentence length, commonly used dialogue tags, how they think your work compares to published fiction on various metrics, passive voice indications, warnings of possible clichés, your most commonly used or repeated words and phrases, plus my personal favourite report: unnecessary filler words.
Another subscription tool, though not expensive – a lifetime subscription to ProWritingAid is only $120 (c. £83) which is less than a year’s subscription to AutoCrit. Again, you can request a trial and get a good idea of what it does that way. It gives in-depth reports on over-used words, sentence length, grammar issues, vague or abstract words and so on.
A paid tool. This tool scrapes redundant words out, making suggestions for replacements, so you have shorter, tighter, clearer language use. Although not aimed primarily at fiction writers it has obvious uses. It’s not cheap – the plugin for Word would be $129 (c. £89) a year, with reductions for subscribing for multiple years. That’s quite a lot for a tool that only serves a single purpose. I like the fact that it ran in my word processor with its own tab, so no need to upload and analyse documents online, though installing WordRake was problematic on my PC. I only used about a quarter of the suggestions WordRake made, but they were good ones.
I haven’t tried this but some writers are fans. (There’s a link to a separate post about it at the bottom of this article.) Supposedly like an upgrade to Word’s grammar checker.
Tools are not a cure-all, and amongst the useful suggestions there will be many false positives. Tools are also not a replacement for the human touch. However, they invariably provide some useful insight. Why not try some of them out on your current or past works and see what they flag up? As indie authors it’s easy for us to edit and upload improved versions of our books at any time.
If the tool is a paid one, think about possible usage patterns. For example, because of the cost of AutoCrit I don’t plan on having a permanent subscription, but whenever I finish a new book I’ll probably subscribe for a month and run my text through it. That’s the most cost-effective way for me.
OVER TO YOU What’s your attitude to such tools – embrace or avoid? Are there any others you would recommend? How else might one improve one’s writing? Looking forward to a lively discussion via the comments box!
A Review of Grammarly – by Debbie Young
How to Self-Edit Your Novel – by Jessica Bell
Why You Should Never Stop Growing as an Author – by Eliza Green
Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester but has lived in Wales for nearly twenty years, ever since he went there to do a degree: it was easier to stay than to catch a train back. His longest career was in librarianship (25 years); his shortest was industrial welding (1 week). Sometimes he writes about life and love; sometimes death and decay. He usually flips a coin in the morning, or checks the weather, and decides based on that. His aim is to tell a good story, regardless of genre. When he is not writing or editing he loves exercise, guitars, computer games, board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice and zombies.
Source: Self Publishing Advice