Editing Software, Anyone?

I’ve read good and bad about writing software over the years, and once considered such gadgets a handy way to flush your money down the sewer pipe. About a year ago writer Gregory Frost talked up Scrivener software, which enables you to edit writing and research at the same time. Scrivener works well, once you get through the learning curve, and comes with a reasonable price tag at about $40. I was all set to try it out, until I found out that only Mac computers accommodate it. Both of my computers have Windows. So I cursed in three languages, went back to my editing for Night to Dawn, and forgot about the whole thing.

My thoughts on software changed when arguments developed between me and blurred vision, particularly when I read long passages. I will reserve the matter of my vision for another blog, after I’ve seen the doctor, but I came to realize no writer can see his/her own mistakes. I’ve gone through work done by professional editors and found faulty passages. Do-it-yourself editing, even for editors, is like a physician performing surgery on a family member. Alas, a content editor can cost about $1000, and a proofreader about $400 for a novel. Not many of us have that kind of money lying around. I was grateful indeed that Ginger Johnson edited my Starship Invasions stories. Now I’m back to Steel Rose and my blurred vision. Then I stumbled on Autocrit software, recommended by Writer’s Digest.

I tried out sample passages and was pleased to see Autocrit weed out weak words. The free version will point out repetitive words and sentence variability. You have to pay to edit longer passages and to get the other types of editing. This I did, and was amazed at the repetitions it turned up and cliches too. The readability report offered limited value, since I write for adults, but it did turn up several run-on sentences. When I used words like “look,” “have,” and “was,” the substitution forced me to use more “show” to substitute for the “tell” verb. Ditto for the dialogue tags. I found myself cutting unnecessary words. The people managing Autocrit are fast to reply to technical questions.

You can flush out repetition with Word’s search-and-replace feature, but Autocrit color codes the errant words. Color codes work best for me.

There are several caveats. I don’t believe the sentence variability, pacing, and homonym sections offer much. It might for a first-time writer, but most experienced writers vary their sentence lengths instinctively. Autocrit won’t catch misspellings, and neither will Word’s spell check. Use your judgment for cliches and sentence readability; sometimes changing the passage can ruin it. Autocrit will not guarantee a sale, but it may improve the chance of your story finding a publisher. Caveats notwithstanding, I was glad I purchased the software.

Have you ever used Autocrit, Scrivener, or other writing software? Would you consider trying it? I’d like to hear about your experiences.

The Gunslinger's Companion by Michael De Stefano features historical fiction with its own brand of horror.


About Barbara Custer

Author of: Twilight Healer Steel Rose Life Raft: Earth City of Brotherly Death Close Liaisons Infinite Sight When Blood Reigns Infinite Sight Publisher / Editor of Night to Dawn Books & Magazine
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  1. Hello,
    Thanks for the review of AutoCrit. I’ve been thinking of purchasing a subscription and most of the reviews for the product are positive. Any new thoughts on AutoCrit since you posted this?

    • Actually…yes, and it’s time I did a follow up blog. Autocrit did a beautiful job with line editing / proofing. It still won’t catch misspellings, so I have to pay attention. I took some work after Autocrit to a writer’s conference. For the writing itself, no one had any issues. However there were some plot problems, something Autocrit will not catch. Since then, I’ve been working with Writing the Breakout Novel and a writer’s group. I really gotta follow up and write a blog.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am trying to become more sensitive to the different words are spelled by British and US Citizens. And sometimes good old fashioned reading works best, and that’s when I magnify the print to 150 percent. The biggest problem I see with Word is that it doesn’t know the difference between to, too, and two. And if you do search and replace, for example, to change “he” to something else, Word will pick up “he” everywhere it sees the letters h-e together.
    As for different software, I always say, when my ship comes in, lol.

  3. I love Scrivener but only to write the draft. It doesn’t really ‘edit’; it’s more an organisation tool and I wish I’d had it years ago. While it’s for the mac a version will be coming out for windows.

    Editing software…hmm…very much mixed feelings with these. It can be a struggle dealing with a publisher’s housestyle and following all these rules makes one feel that some books are in danger of turning into clones. It would help to have something a bit more user friendly than Word to accurately catch silly unavoidable things like typos etc., but for the UK writer this is an even bigger headache as most software is geared up for the US market, whereas British writers spell and even punctuate differently. Even our rules on so-called ‘passive’ differ. I use the grammar check in Word and mac’s Pages to try to catch a few small things, but otherwise I rely on old-fashion read and read and read it again. LOL. True, by the time your book comes out you’re probably sick of it and an editor’s eye is invaluable. Next best thing is a trusted Beta reader. So afraid I can’t help other than to agree that it’s a frustrating thing all round.

  4. My wife, who is a Mac person, has used Scrivener fairly extensively, though not lately. It seems to be more useful for the earlier parts of a project. I had thought to try it, too, but like you I’m on a PC person. But I did try Autocrit just now based on your description of it… it seems to work pretty well, and I made a few edits based on its recommendations. I can’t afford to buy the service, which is the only way it would be really useful for me. Maybe when I have a bit more disposable income… or any…

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