Updated: Jun 3, 2020
Editing sucks. There is nothing you can do about it sucking. It just does. But it is a necessary evil.
In the first post in this series, I discussed setting your manuscript (MS) aside and taking a break. I mentioned some of the software and books I use to edit. This post will explain those things in more depth.
There is no substitute for a human when it comes to editing. I highly recommend you already have an editor lined up. That way when you are finished with your MS and you have it as good as you can get it, you are then ready to send it to an editor.
However, there are a few software programs that will help you get your MS in shape. Most of the software I will mention allow for a trial use before you buy them. None of them are super expensive. (I am not paid by any of the software companies I talk about. I use them. That's it.)
(This is going to be a long post. Grab a drink and a snack)
Grammarly. This is an automated proofreader that will check grammar, spelling, punctuation errors and it will suggest better vocabulary. This will not find or correct all your grammar mistakes. It also may make corrections that your editor would not.
There is a free version. It is a browser extension for either Chrome or Safari. Anything you type on line, can be corrected through Grammarly. The premium version can be bought monthly (29.95), quarterly (59.95) and a yearly (139.95). I use the premium yearly version. It works for everything I do on line, and it is an add in for Microsoft Word.
It can take a long time to make corrections through Grammarly. But I do this step first because it cleans up my MS. I just write and edit at the end of my novel. I don't edit during the writing process. Because of this, it takes me a long time to utilize Grammarly.
After I use Grammarly, I reread my MS. Here I make any changes to my story concerning, characters, setting, plot etc.
Once I have reread and make any story changes to my book, then I am ready to really dive into the editing. By this point, I have my story pretty close to the final version, (barring any huge changes my editor, Mari Farthing @MariFarthing www.marifarthing.com makes.)
I hope you read Marcy Kennedy's book. (She has several, but I recommended her showing vs. telling book.) This carries me into the next software that I use. Smart-Edit. This software will find cliches, adverbs, foreign words, duplicate words, phrases and more.
You can customize one of the word search lists with your own words. Marcy Kennedy gives you a long list of words that lend to telling vs. showing. This is where this software comes in handy.
When you run your MS through Smart-Edit it will show you in the body of your MS all these words, phrases, etc. and you can make corrections right there in the software. You see the words in the context of your story. If you use one of the words that TELL instead of SHOW, you can rewrite the sentence right there in the software.
There are two versions of Smart-Edit. One is a stand alone version for $57.00. Smart-Edit for Word is an add in plug-in for Microsoft Word, which is the one I use. It is $67.00. If you use Scrivener to write in, you may want to research and make sure the stand alone version will work with that.
After I have used Smart-Edit, then I reread my manuscript again. By this point I have made a lot of changes to it. Once I have made sure it is cohesive and the flow is the way I want it, I use WordRake. This software tightens and clarifies your writing. It works with Microsoft Word. The cost for just the Microsoft Word Version is $129.00. This should be used after your final edit.
If you don't use Smart-Edit, I would suggest you use WordRake. You don't need both, I just like to use them together. Since I use Smart-Edit first, WordRake helps me tighten my sentences. It strikes out the words you should drop, it suggests new words or a way to rewrite the sentence. It will not make the changes, you have to okay them first. If you don't like what it suggests, you don't have to accept the change.
This is a great software, but if you aren't using Word, it won't help you. I suggest you use Smart-Edit instead, as it has stand alone version and will allow non word users to utilize it. (I think, check website). It does the same thing and gives you a lot more functionality, especially since you can add specific words to your search lists.
The last software I use is the Hemingway App. (You can use this instead of WordRake, but it is not as in depth) This is a weird software. First it shows you long complex sentences suggesting you simplify or shorten them. Second, it shows you sentences that are so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost. It doesn't suggest a different version of your sentence as does WordRake. You will have to figure out a better way to rewrite the sentence on your own. WordRake will give you suggestions.
The Hemingway App uses different colors to highlight these problem areas. It will also highlight your adverbs. However, if you did any of the above edits, you will have removed a lot of your adverbs by this stage. (Check out the website to get a better understanding. It is hard to explain.)
The Hemingway App is to be used after your final edit. The best part, this cost $9.99. The best value for your money.
Are all these different software necessary? That's for you to decide. For me, I use Grammarly, Smart-Edit and then the Hemingway App. Occasionally I will add in WordRake. I have sent my editor work that I did not use these on, and she asked me if I even edited what I sent her. So for me, it does make a difference.
No matter what software I use to edit my manuscript, when I get it back from the editor, I don't use any of these after I make all her suggested changes. The reason for this, the human element. The software I mentioned here are intended to assist the writer in getting the story in the best possible form to go to an editor.
At a minimum I would use Grammarly and Smart-Edit. Remember, I use Word for my writing. All of these work with Word. If you are using something else to write in, make sure these software will work with what you use.
If you are using Beta Readers, this is where you would send your book to them. If several Beta Readers complain about one item, you may consider correcting that issue in your story. If you get several different complaints/suggestions you may or may not need to make any changes.
At this point I am ready to format my MS. I use Book Design Templates. I have formatted on my own. It is tedious and time consuming. And unless you are familiar with using Word's styles, I highly suggest you use Book Design Templates. For a multiple book license it is $119.00. It will be the best money you spend, especially if you are going to Indie publish your books. I use the Pulp style, but there are several to choose from.
After I have formatted my completed/finished/professionally edited book, I then use Calibre to put my MS in the various eBook formats, EPUB, MOBI, PDF you name it Calibre can convert it. Now if you are using Scrivener you won't need Caibre. (I think.) I can't give you any guidance on Scrivener. I don't use it. Check it out for yourself. People who use it swear by it.
The reason I format and use Calibre is now I am in proofreading mode. I will read my book in various formats. I will read on my android using OverDrive or on an apple product. I will also read it in Word. Now my editor proofs for me as well. But typos always get through, and by using different formats to read it in, I can catch more of those typos.
Another great way to proof is reading your MS backwards. Using what you wrote your MS in, (Word for me), start at the end of the last chapter. Go to the beginning of the last paragraph, and read through it. Then go to the beginning of the next paragraph. Your eye will be more inclined to pick up any mistakes by reading your story out of order.
WOW!! There was a lot of information in this post. It may seem overwhelming. I am two years into this writing career. I have two books in my series completed and a novella. I am working on the third book in my Damien Kaine Series and a new book having nothing to do with that series. I am on the cusp of deciding whether to Indie publish or continue searching for an agent. I am regularly overwhelmed.
I hope by breaking down this part of the writing process, I have made your endeavors a little less scary.
You need to edit your work. I hope that this post has given you some insight into accomplishing this in the least painful way possible.
Please feel free to email with any questions. I will be delighted to try and help you.
UPDATE: As of Dec. 2, 2016 I recently came across ProWriting Aid. I have not tried it. It seems to be very comparable in what the website says it does to Smart-Edit. The cost is very reasonable at $20.00-$40.00 per year. It works with several platforms and they are working on making it compatible with Scrivener. Again I have not used it. I may purchase the premium version, it just isn't that expensive; and compare it to Smart-Edit which I really like.
Want to read the third post in this series, over query letters and synopsis? Click here.
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NOW GO WRITE.
I write crime fiction horror, thriller, and paranormal novels. My time in the Coast Guard and my degree in Forensic Chemistry helps me create fantastic stories.
If I'm not writing, I am binge watching Netflix and probably drinking whiskey.