This is just an “info sharing” post. Indie authors (meaning self-published) have long had a very bad reputation for poorly written and poorly edited books. This is why it’s next to impossible to get brick-n-mortar bookstores to stock indie titles. In my quest to improve my own writing I’ve discovered a couple of free editing tools that can help polish your manuscript. Professional editing costs hundreds or thousands of dollars, a cost most indie authors just plain can’t afford. These are the costs publishers absorb if you’re lucky enough to land a book deal, but for indie authors the whole cost is on us for editing, cover art, marketing, and so on. Even if you’re not going to self-publish, before you fling that thing into the cosmos with hopes of landing an agent, it still needs to be as shiny and pretty as possible. The less work it needs the better your chances of acceptance.
So herewith, two online tools that can help improve your writing. There’s nothing to download.
The first one I encountered was EditMinion.
Welcome! EditMinion is a robotic copy editor to help you refine your writing by finding common mistakes. To get started, paste a chapter of writing into the box above and click Edit! Don’t paste too much or the script will stop responding. This is still very much in Beta and I”ll be adding features as I come up with them. If you have suggestions, tweet @DrWicked or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Below that it shows the text with mark-up, highlighting the potential problems.
It’s a pretty good tool for what it does. It is in beta still, and I don’t know if the developer is actively working on it, I haven’t seen any changes to it recently. It can be a good quick check for certain issues, including ‘frequently used words’ which is a problem of mine. I tend to overuse certain words and don’t even notice. I was thrilled with this thing’s ability to help me find those. It’s entirely free, and as we all know, free is a very good price.
Next, I recently heard about ProWritingAid via a comment on Anne R. Allen‘s blog. This one has both free and paid versions. If you really can’t afford to pay anything, it’s still a pretty robust tool that can help dramatically. The one-year subscription option is listed as $40, then $30/yr for a 2-year subscription, and on up to and a lifetime option for $100. I initially signed up for a free account, intending at some point to subscribe because I like to have all the bells and whistles, but within just a few days of creating the free account, I received an email with the special offer for $30/yr. I came really close to paying that, but then I saw a little graphic on the left side of the email offering it for $25/yr. See the box on the left? Almost missed it. No guarantee it’ll be offered again, but if you check out the free version, wait for the email with free ebook of “20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers.” The special offers were tacked on at the bottom. Needless to say, I took them up on the $25/yr offer.
Here’s the same sample analysis that I ran through EditMinion of a short story I’ve been working on:
You can see the analysis is much more detailed and thorough. You click each heading on the left to see the areas of the text it dinged you on. I’ve found most of the suggestions very good, and have cleaned up and tightened flabby prose by taking its advice, but sometimes it’s just a stylistic difference and I can’t remove all the occurrences of “had” it thinks I should. There’s a lot to this thing, I haven’t even had a chance to check out all the features yet. The Word and Google Docs add-ins are only available if you pay for a subscription. I haven’t added the Word add-in, and I don’t use Google Docs so I won’t be bothering with that one. But you get most of the other features even with the free version. You can save the document on their servers, export to Word or RTF format. There’s so much to this thing but I don’t want to go into more detail here and make this post even longer. Frankly I find it addictive. I love editing and cleaning up my writing and making it better. I’ve also found that when I seem to have a case of writer’s block, editing a bit can get the ideas flowing again.
Anyway, just a couple of options for those of us indies who want to make our writing the best it can be without taking out a second mortgage. And don’t get me wrong, working with a live editor who knows their schtuff is great, and they totally earn their money, but if we can’t afford it we can’t afford it. No amount of wishing is going to make that money materialize.