Category: Writing & Editing

Top 3 Self-Editing Tools

Self-editing tools

Self-editing is tricky. By the time you have written, rewritten, revised and re-revised your manuscript, you are unlikely to be able to see the wood for the trees. This happens to all authors. You become so close to your creation that you can’t see the little niggly mistakes that you would be the first to notice in someone else’s work. Check out the self-editing tools and tips below and please leave your feedback on them in the comments box at the bottom of this article. If you have found any other tools useful, please share with the community.

Top 3 Self-Editing Tools

1. Word Frequency Counter & Phrase Frequency Counter (Free)

Shows you your most frequently used words and phrases. 

self-editing word frequency

TRY IT HERE

Most authors I’ve worked with as an editor have a subconscious preference for certain words and phrases. When manuscripts are written over long periods of time, it is difficult for authors to keep track of what they’ve used a lot and what they haven’t. Simply paste your work into this free online tool then hit ‘submit’ and it will generate a report with your most used words. Obviously, you can skip through the ‘the’, ‘and’, ‘I’ and other usual suspects. Look out for heavily used adjectives and verbs that could be swapped for alternatives. When I ran this report on the last book I edited, ‘wonderful’ came up 25 times. You can easily think of alternatives for overused adjectives like this. A word of warning: don’t swing too far the other way and write, as my old English teacher would say, ‘like you’ve swallowed the thesaurus.’

The same self-editing tool also has a Phrase Frequency Counter. This is particularly good for spotting repetitive descriptions or actions. In the example below, the author could really cut down on the ‘he said’ ‘she said’ tags in dialogue to improve the flow of his work.

WriteWords Phrase Frequency Counter

  TRY IT HERE

2. Hemmingway App (Free online or desktop version is $9.99) 

Highlights adverbs, passive voice and confusing sentences as well as giving you an overall score for ease of reading.

hemmingway app

TRY IT HERE

There has been a lot of hype about this app, and whilst I wouldn’t trust it completely, it is useful from a technical edit perspective. It is just a computer at the end of the day, so it won’t understand that maybe, in certain cases, for certain stylistic reasons, you have deliberately chosen to do things a particular way. However, it is very good at giving you general feedback plus it also gives you an overall score for how easy your work is to read. The best thing about the Hemmingway app is the very simple, effective colour coding system that highlights different types of text in different colours. You can tweak your work in the app online and then paste it back in to Word when you are done (or use the desktop version).

This app will show you:

  • sentences that could be shortened or split in yellow
  • sentence that could be considered complicated in red
  • adverbs in blue
  • words that could be replaced for simpler/shorter alternatives in purple
  • phrases in the passive voice (where the the subject undergoes the action instead of doing it themselves) in green e.g. ‘The song would be sung by Adele’ rather than the active voice ‘Adele would sing the song’

So, to get started with the online version, delete the sample text, paste in your own and see what the app highlights.

  1. First look for the blue adverbs. Adverbs are the bane of many editors’ lives. I recently did a webinar with literary consultant and editor, Britt Pflüger, who recommended that authors take all the adverbs out of their work and only put back those that are necessary. This is quite extreme, but it is definitely useful to see all your adverbs highlighted. Have a look through and think about whether they are really adding to the text, particularly around dialogue. Don’t underestimate your reader; they don’t need spoon-feeding the whole way.
  2. Next look out for the very complicated sentences, which are shown in red. Do you understand why they have been flagged as complicated? See if you could make the meaning clearer.
  3. Then look out for the passive text, which is shown in green, and see if you could make your text sharper by changing it into the active voice. This will make your work more dramatic and punchy.

The exercises above will cover the basics, but you can work through all the colours if you have time.

3. Use our list of commonly misused words. Download below.

Make sure you haven’t made silly mistakes by misusing words.

listSometimes, when you are in the middle of writing a pacy scene or have just had a great idea, you type so fast your brain can’t catch up. It’s in moments of inspiration such as these that you tend to misuse words. You are not alone, most people do this. What you want to do now is go back and in Word, run a search for each of the words on our Commonly Misused Word List and check that you’ve got it right in each case. This list is not exhaustive, but should steer you clear of the biggest offenders. Your editor will thank you for cleaning these up, trust me.

Free writers' resource pack

Want some quick and easy tools to improve your writing?

The pack contains:

  • 25+ inspirational writing prompts 
  • A list of commonly misused words
  • A beta reader feedback questionnaire

Aside from the quick and easy self-editing tools above, the following tips have been really useful for the authors we have worked with.

  1. Put your work away for a while before you start self-editing. Putting some distance between yourself and your work means you will be more likely to catch the mistakes.
  2. Read the work aloud, or use software that will read it to you, such as Wordtalk. When you have read a chapter over and over, you start to see what you think is there rather than paying attention to each word. Hearing your manuscript out loud will help you to notice to every single word and phrase.
  3. Cut down on tags/pronouns in your dialogue. Once the reader knows who is the in scene and understands the pattern of conversation, you don’t need to keep saying ‘he said’ ‘she asked’ ‘he replied’ etc. This actually slows your dialogue down and annoys the reader – keep an eye out for it, especially in conversations with only two speakers.

Once you feel you have done all you can with your manuscript and you need some professional advice on where the weak spots are and how you can improve it, book in for an FREE Editorial Audit below. We will ask for a sample of your work, which one of our editors will go through and give you a report detailing your strengths and weaknesses and also making suggestions for improvements you can make. You will also get a 1:1 with the editor, either over the phone or at our London office so that you have the opportunity to ask any questions. We want to help you improve your writing, so please get in touch.

Types of Edits Explained: Find out what your writing really needs

edits explained

This guest post is courtesy of editorial expert and industry insider, Britt Pflüger. She worked as a literary scout (someone who keeps an eye out for talented writers on behalf of foreign publishers) for for over 20 years before setting up her own literary consultancy, Hardy & Knox, in 2011 where she offers straight-forward no-nonsense editorial feedback and advice. She often works with authors who are right at the beginning of the writing process, who need expert help structuring their story, working out plot points or on other technical elements. She offers invaluable advice and guidance to authors at the very beginning of their writing process. Her recent editorial work includes the best-selling crime novel Double Dealing by Lisa Hartley and Piano from a 4th Storey Window by Jenny Morton Potts Let’s hear what she has to say about the different types of edits and who they are for.

Hardy & Knox logoBut editors are still the world’s readers. And thus the eye of the world,’ said poet and literary agent Betsy Lerner. Or, as Maxwell Perkins, the renowned editor of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, put it, ‘Just get it down on paper, and then we will see what to do with it.’ Perkins may have worked at famous New York publishing house Scribner in the first half of the twentieth century, nearly 100 years before self-publishing irrevocably changed the industry, but his words remain true today.
The emergence of online self-publishing in particular has made many a debut author question the role of an editor as that of gatekeeper to the Holy Grail of traditional publishing. But a good editor is so much more than that. A good editor will not only point you in the right direction when you don’t know where your plot is going, or save you from making poor style choices, or even iron out problems with your dialogue or characterisation, not to mention spelling and punctuation: a good editor will transform your manuscript from ordinary to extraordinary.

There are four types of edits:

Developmental editing will help you with your manuscript either in its early stages, based on a sample text and synopsis, or tell you whether the overall concept works based on the entire text. As a first port of call, I recommend our Slush Report.

Who is it for? The developmental edit is for authors just starting out with their story. They might only have a collection of ideas and no fixed plan for the story. They may have written a few chapters then got stuck. A developmental edit will help these new authors work out which of their ideas are the strongest and the best way forward for their manuscript.


Reader’s Reports
 
are ideal for writers who have already completed their manuscript and require a more in-depth assessment.

Who is it for? The Reader’s Report is for the type of author who has worked hard on their manuscript for a long time, got it into the best shape they think they can, tweaked it and are now ready for a critique by an industry professional, who will point out both the strengths and weaknesses and give lots of feedback on what the author could do to improve the story, writing style, characterisation etc. This is for authors who are happy to take all feedback onboard, positive and negative, and are prepared to rework their manuscript.


Substantive/structural editing 
is called for when you have completed your manuscript and are more or less happy with it but feel that you may need help with the overall plot, or aspects such as style, dialogue, characterisation etc. Your editor may ask you for clarification on certain points and will suggest alternatives.

Who is it for?

Some authors can start the editorial process at this stage, particularly if they have been getting feedback on their writing from a writers’ group or readers. This is for authors who feel they have already done everything in their power to the manuscript and are ready to pass it over to a professional editor who can improve it, make suggestions, help them to strengthen any poor areas etc.


C
opy-editing
involves more than just checking correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. A copy-editor will point out weaknesses, inconsistencies and inaccuracies, and may even rewrite a clumsy sentence.

Who is it for?

This is for authors who think their work is pretty polished, all the heavy work is behind them but they just want their writing and story to flow as well as it could.

Note at I_AM Self-Publishing, they actually combine the substantive/structural edit with the copy-edit, to save authors both time and money. This means one editor will go through the manuscript, making corrections and suggestions on:

  • storytelling
  • writing technique and style
  • plot structure
  • pace
  • narrative flow
  • characterisation
  • use of dialogue
  • consistency of story and characters
  • factual accuracy
  • sentence structure and phrasing
  • vocabulary

To find out more click here.


Finally, a proofreader
comes in to go through the finished product with a fine-tooth comb to check headings, page numbers, and typeface styles, and make sure that corrections suggested by the copy-editor have been inserted properly.

Who is it for? Everyone. You cannot afford to skip this stage. It is important that you ensure all the little grammatical errors and typos are cleaned up before you publish. The last thing you want is your readers to be distracted by silly mistakes (and leave negative Amazon reviews). I_AM Self-Publishing’s experienced proofreaders are eagle-eyed and trained to spot errors in:

  • spelling
  • grammar
  • facts in the text
  • sense in the text
  • formatting
  • consistency of style choices

To find out more click here.

At a time when self-publishing is more popular than ever, the role of an editor remains invaluable if you want your book to stand out in a crowded market. Make sure it is as good as it can be. If you are not sure which edits are right for you, book in for our editorial audit below. An experienced editor will take a look at your sample chapter and synopsis and let you know which type of edit would be best for you.


7 Ways to Fall in Love with Writing Again

What is

Fall in love with writing again

Let’s admit it: we all have days when, regardless of how much we normally enjoy our writing, it just feels like hard work. We have days when we’d rather do laundry than sit down and tackle that tricky scene or piece of dialogue, we have days when re-organising our cupboards seems more appealing than going over chapter 10 for the zillionth time and then we have days when we lose faith totally. Black days. A day when you feel uninspired, worn out by your writing and you begin to doubt your ability. This is normal. Bestselling authors feel this too. Any creative process will have peaks and troughs, times when you wake up in the middle of the night with a genius idea and times when no matter what you do, you just can’t think of how to end that scene. You will have days when you are really proud of what you’ve written and days when you think it is awful. It is part of the rough and tumble of being a writer. Acknowledge this, embrace it and when those darker moments do come around, here’s how to pick yourself up and fall back in love with writing again.

Top 7 tips to fall in love with your writing

1. DON’T GET OVERWHELMED

No one ever sat down and said, “Today I shall pen the greatest literary masterpiece the world has ever seen.” It’s WAY too much pressure. Don’t be too hard on yourself – set yourself tasks and goals that are achievable, otherwise you may be too intimidated to even start writing.

Last week, I met an author who has been writing a 6-volume adventure story for over 15 years – an impressive undertaking. He was really excited about the fact he hoped to finish the first volume this year, having plotted everything out. He broke down a huge task into smaller, less terrifying ones and feels a great sense of achievement when each of the smaller tasks are finished. Break your writing down into manageable tasks and create to-do lists to work through and cross off, e.g. “Re-write the opening to chapter 1” or “Sharpen the dialogue in scene x”, or it could even be as simple as “Finish the first draft of chapter 2”.


2. TAKE A BREAK WHEN YOU’RE STRUGGLING

Given the fluid and creative nature of the writing process, there will be moments where writing just doesn’t feel right. You might get the dreaded writers’ block, or you might just feel out of ideas for a certain chapter or character. Some authors would just plough through this and edit it later, but personally I find it better to take a break and do something different and then come back to it.

Charlaine Harris believes that when you are struggling with writing, it might be because you have created a problem that you can’t identify. You may have tried something with a character or plot function that has not quite worked. Obviously, it may be tricky to isolate that one thing that isn’t working to address it, so she recommends reading the whole thing from the beginning to get a better perspective on what’s not working and why.

3. ACCEPT THAT YOU WON’T GET IT RIGHT FIRST TIME

Don’t give yourself a hard time if it’s not perfect the first time around. Even prize-winning writers revise and rewrite their own work before going on to work with editors to tweak and improve it. You can’t start the journey towards the right answer if you don’t even try any answer. You can always go back and change it later. Just get something down.

Accept that you won’t get it right first time. Your first draft is exactly that, which means you cannot expect every single sentence to flow perfectly first time. Do not compare your work in progress to somebody else’s finished book!

4. REMIND YOURSELF WHY YOU DO IT

In those dark moments, when everything seems pointless, it is important to remind yourself why you are writing in the first place. It may be to start a new career as an author, it may be to share an experience you have had, it may be to pass on your knowledge of something. Whatever it is, it is sure to be important so write it down and stick it by your computer so that every time you sit down to write, you remember the bigger picture.

5. TAKE YOUR WRITING ON A DATE

Writing retreats work because you can think very differently about your writing in different settings. Not all of us have the money to go to a beautiful sunny villa and write, but most of us could take our laptop to a nice coffee shop or even your local library. The idea is that you write somewhere that you like to be. Your writing becomes your excuse to go there.

our top 5


6. A PROBLEM SHARED…

Is a problem halved. Sitting at home alone, going over the same problem in your mind again and again will hamper your productivity. Join a local writers group – take your tricky writing issues to the group and ask for advice. You will make friends in a lovely writing environment and your writing will improve as a result of peer feedback. To get the most out of feedback, whether from friends, family or fellow writers, download our feedback questionnaire here.

7. STAY NIMBLE WITH WRITING EXERCISES

Flex your writing muscles, get a fresh perspective, and teach your inner writer new tricks by regularly making time for quick writing exercises. A short piece in a totally different genre on a totally different subject can help you develop skills that will benefit your manuscript as well as keep the creative juices flowing. Our editors have developed a package of 25 writing prompts that can get you going when you feel out of inspiration or you need a quick break from larger writing projects.

Free writers' resource pack

Want some quick and easy tools to improve your writing?

The pack contains:

  • 25+ inspirational writing prompts 
  • A list of commonly misused words
  • A beta reader feedback questionnaire

We hope we have helped you to fall in love with writing again. If you have any other useful tips to share with fellow writers, please add them in the comments box below.