I may appear fanatical about writing articles on editing but that is because I find it such a horrendous process. However, I met a fantastic technological friend in the form of ProWritingAid. If all goes well, I intend to launch my second book, Into The Light, by the end of March 2019. At the moment, I am going around in circles checking a multitude of rules but can see the finishing line. Here are my tips based on the key functions and analysis within ProWritingAid. No human could ever pick up on these issues with such consistency and detail—nobody. It is also a bargain at $50 (£38.15) per year for the premium edition.
We all have our own style of writing and my bad habits are hard-wired into my brain. I have a habit of writing “is starting to…”, “is walking to…”, is heading towards…”, and so on. Why am I so obsessed with ING words? I do it at the start of sentences as well? i.e. the dreaded dangling modifier. You know, “Drifting off to sleep, I envisage her…”. To get back to the first point, “is starting to…”, you can write: “I/he/she starts to…”, “I/he/she heads towards…” and so on. Dangling modifiers are fine as long as it follows the rule of modifier, subject, verb and object not modifier, object, verb and subject.
Drifting off to sleep (modifier), I (subject) envisage (verb) her beautiful body (object).
It is enough to drive you mad. What else style wise? Oh God! Passive verbs.
The active voice is more common than the passive voice. For example:
The critic (subject) wrote (verb) a scathing review (object) (active voice).
A scathing review (object) was written (verb) by the critic (subject) (passive voice).
I wrote both of my books in the first-person present and first-person past and also put the word ‘was’ before the verb (passive voice).
I was going – I go or I went, dependent on the tense.
I was starting to – I start or I started, dependent on the tense.
I was finishing - I finish or I finished, dependent on the tense.
You get my drift? Perhaps, I am just obsessed with ING words in general.
Another style check on ProWritingAid are repetitive sentence starts.
You must check the text.
You have many errors.
You are an idiot.
You use the word “you” too much.
Check these at the start of each sentence and vary as much as possible.
I like this function very much. Not only does it check grammar but also spelling. Keep in mind American/British idiosyncrasies. British Mr and American Mr., ‘s’ and ‘z’ such as recognise and recognize, theatre and theater and so on. And, it also checks the speech marks in dialogue. I had quite a few missing punctuation errors. What a relief that a tool can pick on minute detail with so much accuracy.
I like adverbs to accentuate a word, but editors frown upon this content in creative writing i.e. agonisingly quiet. Careful use of adverbs throughout your text creates a powerful impact. However, keep these to a MINIMUM. My draft has about sixty adverbs in 80,000 words of text. Is that too much? Not sure? But I am not taking any more out. I got rid of a hundred (+) of the blighters.
Only use these to convey strong emotion, high volume or to emphasise a point. I took out an insane amount of exclamation marks in my first book, Out Of The Dark. Here are some examples: “Quick!” “Stop!” “Watch out!” I learned this rule for the edit of my second book.
Jesus Christ! How many times do you write a description only to follow up a few sentences later with the same words, but never notice no matter how much you read? Echoes, overused words and repeats are a major consideration in your text.
Now this is interesting. Do not overuse tags such as says, retorts, declares, whispers, asks, shouts, screams and so on. I keep these to a minimum unless it is not clear who is speaking. You can always use names to avoid the tag:
He interrupts. “Stop it, Marion. Kristina will tell us more detail when she’s ready.”
“If you insist, William.”
A third of my 80,000 word text is dialogue. Good or bad? Again, I am not sure.
We all overuse words that are unnecessary and this is what this (and this) function checks on ProWritingAid. Glue words include of, off, up, and, that, then, such, so, very, to, and so on. My repetitive words are some, so, very, that, and just. Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh!
Here is an example. But first, I will check my statistics because I still need to run the analysis on my draft. Oh dear! 535 sticky sentences found with a glue index 44.9% to reduce by 40%. Gulp! However, these are minimal changes:
“There have been many times I wanted to give up but continued.”
Could change to:
“Many times, I wanted to give up but continued.”
I will continue to edit with ProWritingAid until I know it is time to stop. After that, I plan to do a Read Aloud edit on Word and complete a final spell check. I recommend that if you use a technological aid to help with the editing process, then do this chapter by chapter. My subscription ran out last year and now I have to run the analysis over 80,000 words of text rather than ten chapters of 8,000. Not so good. Small sections are better than the complete text.
I hope these tips help you on your editing journey.