toys for writers to play with, part 2: editing software

First of all, if this needs to be said, no piece of software will ever write your story for you. And no program will ever be able to replace a human editor either. A machine cannot tell you if your story works or not. It has no idea. That said, there are some programs available that will make your life a lot easier.

The point of this is not to replace a human editor. Really. But what a machine can do for you is to catch all that lazy writing, the things that slip by your eyes after several thousand passes through the same sentence. The things that might even slip by your critique partners after they’ve read several thousand words of your work and have become similarly accustomed to your lazy mistakes.

But a machine won’t – not the first time, and not after the thousandth time. That’s where machines work best.

Here’s a screenshot from EditMinion:

Do you see how great I am at using those weak words???

As always, you have to know the rules well before you can judge which edits to follow and which to discard. With either of these programs, I would only follow some of the edits. What I find they’re good for, in my case particularly, is catching passive voice, or when I’ve used too many adverbs or weak words (really, actually, totally!), or repeated the same word too many times.

But sometimes you do want an instance of passive voice, or a really/actually/totally… okay, maybe not “totally” 😉 Sometimes you just want to end a sentence on a preposition. And a lot of times, it’s only programmed to highlight trigger words, and comes back suggesting that “times” is a preposition? (Which I’m pretty sure it’s not, right?…) Well, if it is, I’m keeping it!

EditMinion: is free, and works pretty well, apart from the odd mislabeled preposition. And though it suggests it does, it does not seem to catch any clichs. However, the program is still in beta.

AutoCrit Editing Wizard: is NOT free (by a long shot, unfortunately) except for the very limited trial version. But from what I hear, it does a lot, and is very thorough. But I do make as much use of the freebie version as I’m allowed. (Though I have to say, I really, really wish they’d make a one-time purchase, stand-alone version of this. Oh man, I’d buy it up in a heartbeat! But alas, I cannot justify paying $50-120 a year for a piece of software I’ll never own. Oh, *sigh*.)

But I also like that it gives little bits of encouragement with the report “nice job” or “yay!”

So try out the freebies and see what you think. You’ve got nothing to lose, and neither of these programs will store or keep your text. I find they keep me on task, and keep me from repeating those same lazy writing habits that can creep into my work under the radar.

How about you guys? Have you come across any editing software you like? (Perhaps something similar to AutoCrit that doesn’t cost so much money? 😀 )