Editing Applications For Writers (and Editors)

My last article, Even Editors Need Editors, mentioned that I recommend some programs to my writers so they can self-edit. I received questions regarding these applications and wanted to share my thoughts on them. For details on each type of software, please click through to their website. Obviously, your word processor has a built-in spelling and grammar checker. That is helpful, but you will discover you need additional tools as you develop your writing skills.

Grammarly

If you’re a new writer, this is a good app to use. It’s free, but the paid version offers extra components which may be helpful. The free version offers spelling, punctuation, and grammar checks. The premium subscription gives you access to a plagiarism check (helpful if you’re writing a school paper), tone of voice, word choice, fluency, and more. Grammarly has add-ins for Google Docs and Microsoft Word, which means you don’t have to go to your browser to use it.

Pro: It’s easy to use and the premium subscription is fairly affordable.

Con: Sometimes it suggests things that make little sense or are incorrect.

WordCounter.net

This is strictly an online application. The main reason I recommend WordCounter.net to writers is for its Keyword Density feature. This handy box on the sidebar will show you the words used the most in a document. You can get rid of filler words or vary your word choice by utilizing the Keyword Density list. This will help keep your readers’ interest until the end.

Pro: It’s free and the Keyword Density report is useful.

Con: If you click the Grammar & Spell Check button, it will take you to Grammarly. So really, the Keyword Density report is the key characteristic of this site.

Hemingway

The Hemingway Editor is better for readability and sentence structure than grammar and spelling. It checks for readability, adverb use, passive voice, and hard-to-read sentences. It is available online for free, or you can pay a one-time fee of $20.00 and get a desktop app. What sets this app apart from the rest is that it checks HTML formatting for building web pages. You can use the “write” screen to have a blank space without editing highlights to get your words down. When you’re ready to edit, switch to the editing screen, and Hemingway will highlight the areas which need work.

Pro: It’s inexpensive and is extremely useful to craft concise prose.

Con: It doesn’t have any editing traits that most new writers prefer, such as grammar and spelling.

Slick Write

For a free program, Slick Write packs a punch! Like most writing software, it checks grammar, spelling, and punctuation. However, it also looks for vocabulary variety, flow, sentence structure, readability report, and style. This application is my top pick for those who can’t (or don’t want to) pay for a service but still need a detailed review. You can choose what you want Slick Write to check, and it will adjust the reports accordingly.

Pro: It’s a free software with comprehensive editing.

Con: It’s browser based, so if you prefer to work offline or do not have internet access, you won’t be able to use it.

ProWritingAid

ProWritingAid is a powerhouse editor, and I do not advise inexperienced writers to use it. PWA has so many features and reports that you may find yourself confused and frustrated. Spelling and grammar? Check. Readability report? Yep. But it also has overused words, cliche check, alliteration, pronoun usage, sticky sentences, transition review, consistency and pacing checks, dialogue tag review, and much, much more. PWA will almost take the place of a human editor if you know how to use it. It has a free version, but, like most programs, the paid option gives you access to additional properties. It has several integrations, so you can use it on the web, with Scrivener or your favorite word processor.

Pro: It is incredibly thorough.

Con: It can be confusing to use.

Remember, none of these applications will take the place of a human editor. A computer follows its programming, which limits it. While technology is amazing, only a human can fully adapt to individual compositions’ voice, style, and content. So why use a program at all? Because it will save you money if you hire a professional editor. And, if you choose not to, using at least one of these programs will ensure that your work is (mostly) error-free.

And, yes, before I submitted this article to my editor, I used Hemingway, WordCounter.net, Grammarly, and ProWritingAid. I guarantee she found other errors or edits that I missed.

Even Editors Need Editors

I have been an editor of small newsletters’ content since 2009, and in 2015, I expanded my knowledge and skill set. I have edited articles of all types, short stories, novel manuscripts, and poetry. My goal for obtaining a college degree in English was to become a professional editor. 

But even I need an editor. 

Because of my background and experience, my writing is clean and free from major errors. But that doesn’t mean I can publish it without having someone else review it first. All that means is my editor doesn’t have to work as hard. 

I frequently go back to previously published blog posts and find minor errors I missed. Why? Because I’m human. Because I stare at a piece for hours before publishing, and my brain fills in words, or my eyes skip missing punctuation. Even the fancy computer programs miss things. They don’t have a human’s perception of dialogue or nuances. 

Often, I recommend various programs to my writers as a way for them to self-edit. But I always remind them that the applications are not perfect, and they need to use their best judgment. Last week, one of my writers said she used Hemingway, and it marked several sentences as “hard to read” due to length. So she broke those sentences up in the middle with a period which created sentence fragments. The program was happy. Was it correct? Nope.

When I am editing my own articles, I use several programs. Sometimes, two of those programs will give conflicting recommendations. “Put a comma here.” So I do. Then I take to the next piece of software. “Remove this comma.” But that was the one I just added. This is where an editor comes in. 

Editors don’t just look at spelling and commas. They examine flow, sentence structure, clarity, word choice, and more. Editors should know the rules about writing numbers, time, and money. They can spot the misuse of dialogue tags at first glance. Editors also ensure consistency throughout the piece. 

Writing and reading are in my blood. I am passionate about both, and becoming an editor seemed a natural course of action. When I read for pleasure, I try to turn my “editor brain” off to enjoy the book, but sometimes that is extremely difficult if there are a lot of mistakes.

I can tell within a few pages if the book was professionally edited or not. Usually, I can ignore most of the errors. However, sometimes I get so irritated that a writer would send sub-par work out into the world, I stop reading and write my review. Those reviews always include some version of “needs editing.” I wish I could also send them a link to my website offering my services. Sadly, I’ve caught typos in newspaper articles from The New York Times. Obviously, it was a rush job, but an editor should have reviewed it before publishing.

Some of my friends think I want to edit these strangers’ books because I want the money or enjoy picking apart the writing. The truth is I want to help writers become better writers. I have many friends in the industry, and we always push each other to learn and do more. Why? Because seeing another author succeed is exciting. We all know how it feels to strive for creativity, ingenuity, and publication. When one of us wins, we all celebrate. 

Being a writer and an editor, I know my articles and stories will improve after my editor gets her eyes on them. She will always find something I missed or see a way to polish a phrase. There are times I have an area I am struggling with, and she will have a brilliant idea to fix it. Despite popular belief, writing for publication is not a solitary activity. Authors need editors; therefore, editors who are also authors need editors. 

The Welkin: Chosen

This piece is by Heather, one of the writers on my Coffee House Writers team. I’m really excited to see where she takes this story!

Photo by Bhumil Chheda on Unsplash This is the first part of a new serial fantasy fiction series I’m writing. Here is a random snippet for you and …

The Welkin: Chosen

Editor Of The Month

I was very pleased and surprised to get the notification that I was Coffee House Writers editor of the month for December. I really enjoy the community of CHW, and highly recommend them to new writers or those who want to get their work out into the world. Coffee House Writers’ goal is to help writers grow and learn in writing. I have explored new writing types, learned more about the publishing world, and made friends that I am sure I will have for life. While it is fun to add this to my list of credentials, I am more excited to know that I am helping other writers master their craft.

NaNoWriMo 2016 is here!

I’ve been really focused on my school and family life the last few months. I also traveled a bit, and enjoyed spending time with some lovely women I call Sisters. It was refreshing to be able to chat with women who not only relate to my spirituality, but also support me in the best way – by holding space. Now that I’m back from that beautiful trip, and my children’s extra-curricular sports have all ended until next season, I feel (mostly) ready insane to take on National Novel Writing Month this year.

I just started week 2 of my 8 week term in college, and this time I’m going full time. I am trying to push my Young Living Distributor business to new heights. I am still working at the chiropractic clinic 15-25 hours a week, depending on patient flow. And I can’t just ignore my family to write, so there’s that joyful obligation too.

Am I totally crazy? Probably. But I know myself well enough to know I need a push. I need a deadline and real tangible way to track my progress. Mostly I need to get back in the habit of writing daily for me, instead of writing school discussion posts and essays. If I don’t write every day, I won’t win. And I love to win! It’s all motivation disguised as stress disguised as pleasure.

If you’ve jumped on the writing train for NaNoWriMo, I’d love to have you as a writing buddy! Lets keep each other motivated and writing, despite all the busy-ness of life.

Changing the Publishing Industry

In my Context of Writing course this term, we have been asked to write an analytical paper that looks at how notable individuals have changed or shaped the writing and publishing industry. This first week, we were to brainstorm some topics – that is, get some ideas about who we’re going to write on and why they were influential. As I was researching some possible candidates, the information I found was intriguing. So naturally, I want to share it with you.


Jeff Bezos is the founder of Amazon. He watched when the internet was born and then skyrocketed from 16 million users to 36 million in a single year (Wasserman). He decided to capitalize on this knowledge and sell books online. Originally, Amazon delivered books from warehouses to customers via the postal service or other commercial shippers. Now, Amazon delivers books in moments via digital downloads, and thousands of other products still from warehouse to the customer by post. They also have drone delivery service in some areas where you can get your purchase in a matter of hours. I think Amazon and Jeff Bezos would be interesting to research because I love Amazon for purchasing books, household items, craft supplies, and more. I find it fascinating that Jeff saw the trend the internet was taking and found a way to become extremely successful within a matter of a few years. Jeff has transformed publishing and allowed more authors to get their work into the public.

Stephen King is a well-known author of thriller books who has been getting published by traditional publishers since 1967 (King). He has been published by Doubleday & Co., Anchor, and Viking, and several other companies. In 2013, Stephen King digitally published a Kindle Single, therefore cutting out the publishing company (Hughes). Since then, Stephen has incorporated digital publishing into his business. Lately, the majority of his books have been published by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, and are available in traditional print, digital audio, and e-book (Belfiglio). While I’m not a huge fan of Stephen King, I have read some of his books and watched the movie versions. I think his career would be interesting to evaluate because he was present before the digital age of publishing and is still writing and publishing even now. As an author, one must adapt to changing technologies and Stephen has done that very well.

Jason Epstein started his career as an editor at Anchor and moved on to be the editorial director for Random House, one of the Big Six publication companies. He remained the editorial director for 40 years (Cross). When Jeff Bezos first started Amazon’s e-books, he consulted Jason Epstein. Jason told Jeff that people will still want to hold a book in their hands and turn the pages. Jason’s vision was on demand printing, where a bookstore would have copies of books for the customer to look through, then when they decided on a purchase, a new book would be printed while they waited (Wasserman). Enter the Espresso Book Machine. Jason founded On Demand Books, LLC which created the EBM, a printing press that is onsite at a retailer. The EBM provides “books printed in minutes at the point of sale for immediate pickup or delivery,” (“Executive Overview”). The more I read about Jason Epstein, the more excited I get. I remember hearing about this idea years ago and thought it was pretty cool but that it would never happen. It is amazing to be able to have a real book in your hands when you want it, and not waste paper printing books that people won’t buy. I think it would be fascinating to delve into Jason’s career as he was an editor at traditional publication companies and then moved on to found a company that enables people all over the world to get a book within a few minutes. He changed the world of book printing.

Works Cited
Belfiglio, Brian. “Scribner/Simon & Schuster Acquires Majority of Stephen King’s Body of
Work.” News and Corporate Information about Simon Schuster Inc. Simon & Schuster, 12 Oct. 2015. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <http://about.simonandschuster.biz/news/scribnersimon-schuster-acquires-majority-of-stephen-kings-body-of-work/&gt;.
Cross, Timothy P. “Columbia College Today.” Columbia College Today. Columbia College, May 2001. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <http://www.college.columbia.edu/cct_archive/may01/may01_profile_epstein.html&gt;.
“Executive Overview.” Executive Overview Espresso Book Machine. On Demand Books, 2015. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <http://ondemandbooks.com/executive_overview.php&gt;.
Hughes, Evan. “Book Publishers Scramble to Rewrite Their Future.” Wired.com. Conde Nast
Digital, 19 Mar. 2013. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <http://www.wired.com/2013/03/publishing-industry-next-chapter/&gt;.
King, Stephen. “StephenKing.com – About the Author.” StephenKing.com. Steven King, n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <http://stephenking.com/the_author.html&gt;.
Wasserman, Steve. “The Amazon Effect.” The Nation. The Nation, 29 May 2012. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <https://www.thenation.com/article/amazon-effect/&gt;.

The Future of Art

This is a little short story that I submitted to this year’s Idaho Writers League contest. It started as a quick write about a dystopian society where you must be productive to live. My original story was about Adam trying to escape the country. This one is about his sister. Let me know what you think! 

Looking out over the city, Amber compared what she was seeing with the photos on her Vu-pad. The hilltop was covered with lush, green grass while strategically placed benches and trees allowed one to pause and enjoy the beauty of Newtown. Amber sat on one such bench, her drawing kit next to her. She wanted to sketch how the city looked two hundred years ago and then overlay it with the current view.

Two hundred years ago, Newtown was called Houston. It was a vast and sprawling city, with towering buildings and hundreds of miles of paved roads that overlapped each other in a tangled mess. In the photograph, Amber could see vehicles crawling on the highways and smog hanging in the air. She was taught in school that this picture was taken right before the Great Purge when the pollution and garbage were at their worst. That was when the government changed the regulations and required that everything uses renewable energy and have little to no waste products. The Great Purge took place over a period of twenty years, and the structure of the government also changed. Instead of having a president, senate, and congress, the Commonwealth now consisted of the President, the Bureau, and the Councilors.

Sighing, Amber brought her attention back to the scenery and pulled out a sketch pad. The paper alone cost almost an entire paycheck, but she felt it was worth it. With quick, sure strokes of the pencil, Amber began to draw the city in front of her. Several minutes went by, and she found the in-between space where nothing existed but her pencil moving over the paper. The sudden sharp tone of her comm-unit startled her, and she put the drawing aside to look at the message that scrolled across on the screen.

“Ms. Amber Jaydine Austin: You are hereby summoned to the Court of Society where you will explain your chosen profession and how it benefits the city. Please present yourself in one hour.”

Continue reading “The Future of Art”

Friendships in Writing

Originally published August 25, 2015, by me on my other blog, which is in the middle of a transition.

A few days ago, I was getting ready to leave for 10 days to see some friends I have in Texas. This is my 3rd annual trip, and I’m really looking forward to it. I get to see my bestest best friend for a few days, then spend some time reconnecting and learning with my Sisters of the Sisterhood of Avalon. Over the last week, I’ve been thinking about the friendships I have. This past year has seen some of my friendships wax and wane, and one go out all together.

We all have different levels of friendships and some of those friends may feel they are at a different level with you than you are with them. Wait, did that make sense? Let me say it this way: I may feel one way about a relationship, while that person may feel that the relationship is something else.

I’m not going to analyze my various friendships for you. I know where everyone stands with me, and I usually try to make sure they know where they stand with me too. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, usually because the other person is thick headed and I’m trying really hard not to hurt their feelings.

For me, the different levels of friendships include the Best Friend, the Good Friend, the Old Friend, the Casual Friend, the Group Friend and the Acquaintance. I don’t want to go too in depth about what each category is, but they are listed in order from “most likely to tell a secret to” to the least. Some of these have sub-levels, but that’s not important for right now.

When you’re writing – whether fiction or non-fiction – you need to keep in mind the level of friendship someone has with the person they’re interacting with. For example, a character (let’s call her Mary) is talking to her best friend, Beth. Mary tells Beth all about her date including the details of the dinner and the goodnight kiss (maybe even a bit too much detail?). Later on, when Mary is talking to her casual friend Amy, a lot of the details are left out and the date goes from amazing and romantic over chicken parmesan to pretty nice and how was your day.

Don’t allow your characters to give up too many secrets or details to friends who aren’t at the top of their list. At the same time, allow all relationships to change. Maybe a casual friend becomes a good friend when they’re in a car accident together. They now have a bond that might not exist in other friendships. Flip that around, and a good friend who betrays your character suddenly becomes a casual friend or even an enemy. There are different levels of enemies too, but that’s a discussion for a different day.

What do you think? Did I leave out any important friendship levels?

Why I Write

Why I write is not a complete title. The actual title should be something like, “Why I write and have this website.” But you can see that’s a little wordy. I’d like to break it down for you a little, give you some insight into my head. It’s a little dark and scary in there, but I’ll try to keep you on the fringes.

WHY I WRITE

I write because it’s in my blood. Seriously. I grew up watching my mom write. My mom has a few thing published (more on that later), and she was always journaling. I have a distinct memory of being about five years old and taking a bath in the big bathtub in my mom’s bathroom. She was sitting next to me on a little green stool with a notebook in her lap. I was telling her a story, and she was writing it all down for me. Years later, I found that she wrote that in her journal. Someday I should get her to dig that old notebook up and let me have my story back.

I also write because it’s an outlet for me. I’ve had lots of life happen to me. There was a lot of good things but also a lot of bad things. I like to think there has been more good than bad, but the bad was really, really bad. Some of it was evil. I would write stories to explain my feelings or work through events. It was a kind of mental purge, I guess. The beautiful part of my mental purge is that it included the love and laughter, not just tears and fear.

I’ve literally been writing my entire life. I have notebooks filled with stories, notes, and ideas. In recent years, I decided to become serious about writing and make it my career as well as my passion. This is my why.

WHY I HAVE THIS WEBSITE

I wanted to have a way to allow people to get to know me as well as have updates on what I’m writing. I’m super hopeful to be famous someday, with a book turning into a movie and then a TV series. Isn’t that the ultimate dream of all serious writers? So click “follow” if you haven’t already. Thanks!

I have lots of things I’m excited about and love. These things inspire and help me to create my stories. My family, travel, essential oils and how they changed my life, and my spiritual journey are all things that influence my writing. I want to share all of this with the world. That will happen here, on this site. Have you clicked “follow” yet? It’s going to be an awesome voyage.