Updated: May 2
Updated November 3, 2021
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 used 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 allows 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)
ProWritingAid. 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.
It can take a long time to make corrections through ProWritingAid. 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 ProWritingAid.
After I use ProWritingAid, I reread my MS. Here I make any changes to my story concerning characters, setting, plot, etc.
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. Smart-Edit for Word is an add in plug-in for Microsoft Word, which is the one I use. 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. Another software similar to WordRake and cheaper is the Hemingway App. It will help you cut those wordy sentences down and make the consice and tight. I love this app. The major difference between the two is 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.)
If you don't use Smart-Edit, I would suggest you use WordRake or Hemingway App. Since I use Smart-Edit first, the Hemingway App or 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.
Are all these different software necessary? That's for you to decide. For me, I use ProWritingAid, 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 is intended to assist the writer in getting the story in the best possible form to go to an editor. The only thing I will do is use either the word editor or ProWritingAid to double check any misspellings or misused words. This is my last-minute run through before I send it to my beta readers.
Some people choose to send an earlier version of the MS to their beta readers. I prefer to send the version edited by my editor. My reasoning is they catch a lot of proofreading errors. They also tell me if something needs to be changed. Remember, betas are giving your a reader's perspective. They see things a reader might see not an editor. This is why I like for them to see the 'almost final version'. If several betas 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 Atticus now. I used to use Book Design Template. I still BDT to get my MS ready for Atticus, but this is just my way of doing it. Either of these will work great. 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 one of these.
Atticus will take your word or scrivener document and convert it to an epub and a pdf for print. You can then use Kindle Previewer to convert it to a mobi file if you need that file for something.
WOW!! There was a lot of information in this post.
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.
Want to read the third post in this series, over query letters and synopsis? Click here.
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NOW GO WRITE.