I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Will I get to 50,000 words by the end of this month? I doubt it. I’ve learned that when I turn writing into a “job,” strangely enough, it starts to feel like “work.” Quite frankly, I don’t want that. I have a job. (More than one.) However, I do enjoy the camaraderie of being a NaNo participant. I like seeing all my writer buddies working away at their craft. As long as I’m writing for my own enjoyment, even if I don’t make it to 50,000 words, I haven’t lost anything. I’ll still have my words and chapters, more words and chapters than if I hadn’t participated. Plus, I really would like to write a novel. Something for me. Something I can be proud of.
I just read a great Louise Penny Interview last night, written by herself! It took her 45 years to write her first novel. Now, she writes a new book every year. I think that’s amazing! She’s one of my favorite authors.
Anyway, NaNoWriMo is on its seventh day, and some of my new buddies have asked, “What do I do once I’m finished? What happens after? How do I edit my novel?”
First of all, if you’re constantly picking apart your novel as you write it, you’ll NEVER finish. Seriously, I do this. I’ve done this. It’s not good, not if you want to be prolific. It doesn’t do me any good to polish my first chapter when I still have more chapters to write. I used to write by the seat of my pants, no outline. When I’d write myself into a corner, those previously polished up chapters were that much harder to pick apart when I’d come up with a new idea, a BETTER idea, than I’d previously had. It’s one thing to shove a new idea into an unedited work, then polish it up and elaborate on it once the book is done. It’s so much harder when you’ve put the time and effort into editing a chapter, only to rip it out of your manuscript later on.
So my first piece of advice is this, make sure you have a beginning, a middle, and an ending to your book BEFORE you play with the links I’m going to share. Otherwise, you are going to fall down the editing/perfectionist rabbit hole and NEVER finish your book. These are awesome links for editing your own novel, FREE stuff you can do yourself, but they will suck you in!
It’s FREE to use with your Google Chrome browser. This is basic stuff, but if you’re not using Grammarly, you really should. It’s an automated system that checks your spelling and grammar in real-time, whether you’re writing in Google Docs, sending an email, or just hanging out on Facebook. I am a terrible at spelling so this is my favorite app. (Trust me, it’s been highlighting my mistakes as I write this post.) The nice thing about Grammarly is that unlike other editing software, it takes place in real-time. It doesn’t seem to slow down my writing very much, but it DOES make me feel much more confident. I would recommend Grammarly to everyone.
(There is a Premium version of Grammarly out there, but I haven’t tried it.)
Whether you’re writing a novel, a paper for school, or a presentation for work, Paper Rater is a great site for checking spelling, grammar, word choice, style, vocabulary, and it even has a plagiarism detector. The FREE version will “grade” five pages at a time. The premium version will take 20 pages. However, Paper Rater will grade an unlimited amount of submissions. So if you wanted to go through your book, one chapter at a time, Paper Rater is a powerful tool to use.
I’ve played with Paper Rater a lot. I’ve only used the FREE version. I don’t think I’d WANT to submit more than a page or two at a time. It’s quite thorough for an automated system. It will bruise your pretty words with plenty of ideas and suggestions. (It may bruise your ego, too.) It will certainly improve your writing.
So you think you’ve written the “Great American Novel,” and you’ve filled your pages with flowery, ten-dollar words. It’s time to use the Hemingway Editor. This automated editor is sure to deflate any ego you may have been left with. Hemingway Editor is all about clarity, simplicity, and readability. It hunts down adverbs. It highlights passive sentences. It points out sloppy, complicated sentences. If you use this FREE site, your writing will be stronger.
Hemingway Editor is unique. It gauges the lowest education needed to read your prose. In this case, a low grade is better than a higher grade. A high grade usually indicates you used too much jargon and complicated words. Your story is difficult to read. Most of Hemingway’s writing scores as a low 5th grade, despite his audience. I copy/pasted a few samples from some famous writers. I chose award-winning novels, written for an adult audience. I wanted to see where they rated. They rated at 3rd and 4th-grade reading levels. That surprised me! These were well-written stories, not dribble, and they were all light in their use of adverbs. It’s something to keep in mind.
This is another FREE site. It ranks the most frequently used words in a document. This is a great tool to purge your writing of redundancies.
This isn’t an editor, but it will help you with your editing. This is a Text to Speech program. There is a FREE version and a premium version. I’ve only used the free version, but I found it invaluable for catching the last bit of mistakes all the other editors missed. It reads your words to back you in a computerized voice.
When you read your words out loud, you pause when you think there should be one. You fill in missing words. Natural Reader doesn’t do that. You will hear the mistakes. If it sounds like it’s stumbling over a sentence, you can fix it. If you used the wrong word, you’ll hear it.
Natural Reader helps you to distance yourself from your writing. You’ll hear the difference between writing that flows, and stuff that’s just boring. If the dialog is funny, it’s still funny using Natural Reader. If it puts you to sleep, it might not be the computer program. Maybe your novel needs more work.
Will any of these programs be able to replace a human editor? Probably not. But they’ll save you money in the long run. A clean document is easier to edit than one full of typos and errors. Most human editors give discounts for clean manuscripts. You’ll get better results if your editor is able to focus on your content rather than grammatical issues.
Happy Writing and Good Luck to all my NaNo friends!
(If you need a writing buddy on NaNo, I’m Juli Hoffman. I didn’t bother using a nickname.)