Repost – Software Review: AutoCrit

7/7/2010 Looking for Autocrit reviews? I’m actually recycling this software review post this week. I did vacation last week with little computer activity and now am having computer issues. I’m writing this snippet from my husband’s computer and hoping I’ll get my computer up and running soon. Anyway, all this leads up to no new products tried this week and maybe not next week. So, I do have this product that I tried previously, and still enjoy quite a bit. It’s great for new and old writers trying to identify their problem areas. I actually subscribe to this service and use quite often. So the snippet from the website:

Dear Fellow-Writer,
If you are writing a book, the AutoCrit Editing Wizard will dramatically improve your manuscript. I guarantee it.
My name is Nina Davies, I’m a published writer, editor, and creator of the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. The Wizard is an instant book editor. With a click of a button, it shows you the weaknesses in your manuscript.

Originally posted 3/31/2010:

A few days ago, someone in one of my group lists mentioned an editing program called AutoCrit. I use critique groups for the most part. They’re very helpful with making sure the story flows and reducing distractions. However, critters are also very subjective. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it‘s not. In the end, it‘s up to the author to sift through all the critiques and determine which advice works best for their work. Then, the author ends up trying to incorporate the select advice into their work.

So, back to AutoCrit. How does it work for the author? For one, it‘s objective. It provides an objective assessment of the work and highlights problem areas. AutoCrit offers three Free Reports: Overused Words, Repeated Phrases, and Sentence Length Variation. Try them out now. The Overused Words report was what got me hooked. As a new writer, I’m not always sure what’s awesome writing and what’s just okay. I’m learning just like everyone else. AutoCrit is an excellent tool for new writers learning the trade and experienced writers looking for a quick tool to assess their work.

For example, many new writers overuse adverbs -ly words. AutoCrit determines an acceptable number of adverbs allowed in a piece, and when the writer reaches the limit, the software highlights it as a problem area. It DOES NOT recommend eliminating EVERY adverb, as a writer might find particular critters suggest. But it does recommend a reduction in the number of adverbs. It‘s up to the author to decide which to eliminate, if they choose. The same is for other overused words’ was/were,’ ‘ it/there,’ ‘ just/then,’ and many more.

Members receive added benefits: Repeated Words, Dialogue Tags, First Words, Names and Pronouns, Repeated Phrases Summary, Combination View of Overused & Repeated Words, *Cliché Finder, *Redundancy Finder, *Homonym Highlighter, *Readability Suite, *Change definitions, *Difficult Sentence, *Complex Word, *Pacing Monitor.

*Available only with platinum membership.

I had a difficult time finding editing software, and very few allowed users to try before you buy. One software, WhiteSmoke, I spent a bit of time with. Like AutoCrit it requires an internet connection. WhiteSmoke worked very much like the spell grammar check available in MS Word, but included additional feature. Not a bad program, but my experience with it seemed as if it were designed more for technical writing than creative writing. The suggestions were very formal, and not always accurate (like MS Word). If I were a technical writer, I might consider that over AutoCrit, but I’m not.

I also tried HEALaDoc; at least I loaded it on my computer. There seems to be some compatibility issues with some versions of Windows. Repetition Detection was another I tried. It‘s very simple program which does what the name says. I liked it, though it didn’t offer all the benefits of AutoCrit. Analyzer does what the title implies. However, it offers absolutely no suggestions, just statistical reports on your work. It‘s up to the writer to interpret the results and apply it to his/her work.

In the end, I found AutoCrit to be the most well-rounded software for my creative writing needs. But don’t take my word on it. Check it out for yourself. AutoCrit

So, what’s with all the yellow highlighted words in my text today? I took the liberty of running this document through AutoCrit, and these are the results. Below are the suggestions AutoCrit had for me. Now this is not an all inclusive list, I only included the items with check boxes, and deleted the rest for brevity.

  • generic descriptions                            6 Remove about 5 occurrences
  • initial conjunction                               6 Remove about 3 occurrences
  • it/there                                            24 Remove about 19 occurrences
  • just/then                                             6 Remove about 3 occurrences

Update 7/7/2010: Anyway, it’s a product I recommend. I’ve yet to find one as tailored for creative writing as this one. If you know of one, feel free to share. I’d love to get my hands on one which is a downloadable software program. I’ve given WhiteSmoke a try (review here), but still prefer AutoCrit.

What’s the Big Wooha with Critiques?

When I started writing, I’d never heard of a critique group or partner. I just wrote. I wasn’t sure if my writing was decent or not. It bothered me. My husband was not a big reader, and having my young daughters (both avid readers) read the erotic romances I wrote just didn’t seem all too appealing. I did a bit of research and found the concept of critters. After some time, I finally joined a critique group.

My original purpose of joining a critique group was to receive help with my writing. I wanted to know if my writing was rockin’ or not. I thought critiquing the work of others was just a chore I’d have to do in order to reap the benefits of having others review my work. The help I’ve received from critters reviewing my work has been awesome! As a new writer, they pointed out issues which never even crossed my mind. However, there are so many other benefits to critiquing than just receiving a critique.

One advice I’ve found time and time again is to read, read, read the genre you write. It gives you an opportunity to see different styles of writing. Same thing with critiquing. Reading another individual’s work gives you as an author the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. As you point out awkward issues in another person’s writing, you might also find similarities in your own work. If nothing else, it might help you avoid making those same mistakes while drafting.

Don’t just stop at giving and receiving critiques. Take time to check out the critiques of others. Use it as a learning experience. After I critique a work, I find it particularly helpful to read other critiques on the same piece of work. Sometimes critters point out issues I overlooked or didn’t realize was problematic because of my lack of experience.

My encounters with other critters has been invaluable in my ongoing commitment to learn the trade. If you don’t have a critique partner or group, I highly suggest finding one. Friends and family are great for building up the ego (usually), but they may not have the qualifications or gumption to offer a real assessment of your work.

Keep in mind, critiquing is subjective. Critters come with various knowledge bases, experiences, and tastes–just like readers. Keep or trash whatever works while taking advantage of the diversity.

A couple of critique groups I’ve used and enjoyed are RWCcritique and Scribophile. Please feel free to comment on critique groups you’ve used and value.

Do Your Lips Move When You Edit?

This is just a short post. I’ve been pressed for time and dead beat. 🙂

So I ask you. As a writer, do your lips move when you edit? No? Well, maybe it’s time to change your methods.

This week I rediscovered The Art of Reading Aloud. 🙂 I kinda like that title.

Anyway, I do most of my edits in silence. Shame. Shame. For me, silent edits are similar to skimming a book. I can catch a few of the errors, but quite a bit slips past. But reading out loud is a whole other story. I find so many mistakes when I hear what I read. For one, reading aloud forces me to slow down. No longer the silent skimmer, I articulate each word. Yes it’s time consuming but well worth the efforts when it comes to readability, flow, and style.

So if your lips don’t move while you edit, give it a try. Be your own critter and force those critique partners to work hard to find asinine issues with your work.

Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Rejection

Rejection. I’ve had more rejections since I started writing than I’ve had most of my life. It started with critters, then literary agents, the publishers. Rinse and repeat as I revised my work umpteenth times. As an aspiring writer looking for publication, it can be a way of life. That big break is always over the horizon…just out of reach, but one day…one day…or not.

Writing with rejection on my mind is the worst for my muse. For me, it saps my motivation and leads me to develop characters/scenes/stories which aren’t true and dear to me. Constantly changing this and that to meet the demands of the subjective audience with the hope someone…just someone might love it the way I loved it when I first typed the words on the screen. In the end, I’m left with one big mess of wishy washy characters, a story arc which falls flat, a novel I can’t stand to read, and absolutely no desire to write another. Cause really…what’s the point if I can’t get it published anyway?

FULL STOP

Yes, publishing is a goal for many authors, including me, but it didn’t start out that way. Remember why you first started writing. I know my original goal for writing wasn’t to get published. I had a story. I wanted to tell it. I had the time to write it. And I so I did–A big accomplishment for me.  85k words later I held my completed manuscript, full of pride. I wrote a full length novel! I didn’t know anyone in my little world who could say that. Then I thought…hmmm I wonder if I could get it published.

I did a little research, learned about critters, sent it for critiques and had my bubble burst. What I heard, not necessary what they said was, I did nothing right. I started the story in the wrong place, they hated my characters, and my writing style was boring.

Then came the thoughts, maybe I’m not a writer. It took a while for me to realize hey, I wrote a novel. The writing wasn’t the greatest, but I did it. I didn’t do it for the critters, I did it for me. I did it because I wanted to do it. I don’t have to write to put bacon on the table. And from what I hear, most writers have day jobs, including published writers. I had to ground myself back into reality. Polishing the work is a bonus. Finding an agent is a bonus. Publishing is a bonus. Writing a story I want to tell and read is a joy.

I am a writer, and that is why I write.

People, I’m talking to you Mister/Miss Author, you don’t need affirmation to keep writing. You didn’t need anyone’s permission when you put your first words to paper. Why do you need them now? You may or may not get published. Then again, you may or may not win the lottery. Who cares? Just write the best story you can. Continue to do your research. And remember why you first started writing.

“Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love [Write] like you’ve never been hurt and live like it’s heaven on Earth.”

Thank you, Mark Twain.