A whole lot of editing going on

This post is about writing and stuff (1,750 words). I’ll throw in a photo for them that look at one photo and move on . . . 

I’ve been absent for a bit. For them who care, I’ve been doing writing-related stuff. Namely, editing. Many writers don’t like editing. I’m not one of them writers. Since I like reading my fiction, the idea of reading it to catch errors sounds enjoyable to me.

However, there’s a problem with me doing my own editing. I am so dazzled by the awesomeness of my writing that I gloss over the errors. Meaning, even after many readings, I still catch errors; errors I previously missed. Spelling errors, wrong words, bad grammar, and stuff that invariably puts a damper on the admiration I hold for the writer in me.

For many years, the tool of choice for catching stupid errors has been Grammarly. Over the years, the tool has improved to where it catches a lot of my stupid errors but while it can catch many things, it doesn’t catch everything. Also, it’s mostly a spelling and grammar checker (hence the name) and no more. 

Anyway, last week, after I started editing the 2015 NaNoWriMo novel (Gin’s War), there was a glitch on my Grammarly account and that prompted me to look around for other interactive editing tools out there for writers to use.

I found one that was interesting . . . ProWritingAid. Aside from the many things it checks for, it can read and process Scrivener files. That’s on top of integrating with Google’s Documents, my browser, and MS Word.

I’m not an expert and I don’t use all of its functionality but Scrivener is my preferred tool for writing fiction. The problem I have with Scrivener is that Grammarly doesn’t read Scrivener files and there’s no Grammarly plugin for Scrivener. That makes editing a pain because it requires I output a Word file, run it through Grammarly, and then bring the corrected text back into Scrivener.

Well, no more. Last week (and most of this week) I’ve used ProWritingAid to aid me in editing edit the rough draft of Gin’s War . . . five times. 

Let me give you my impression of the tool.

Oops; I should clarify . . . I’m not a published author, so I ain’t I’m no expert . . . but, I still have feedback and questions. 

The main question is this:
What setting should I be using for fiction writing? No, wait . . . What setting should I use for fiction writing? No, here it is: What’s the setting for fiction?

I used the “Creative” setting, but I ran into a lot of some instances of flagged stuff that I felt ran counter to the general style of fiction writing. 

The primary areas causing me concern are the flagging of adverbs and passive verbs and what are labeled as “vague” words. 

Here’s the thing: I can check . . . oops . . . sorry; let me try again.

Checking a few . . . wait, sorry; “few” is too vague . . . checking two (or three or four) best-sellers, I see adverbs and passive verbs all over the place as the authors (famous authors; not like me) describe events, character actions, and stuff. 

I understand I need not act on every suggestion the program makes, but at the same time, I got to wondering wondered what “Creative” means as opposed to “General”. Also, why not a no “Fiction” option?

Contractions were was another area of concern. The emphasis and meaning of “do not” are not aren’t the same as “don’t”. 

For instance, “Do not touch my food” and “Don’t touch my food” read different and have different pacing. 

I understand these things are just (wait; scratch the word “just” to improve readability. Yes, I know removing it gives the sentence a slightly different meaning, but go with me here) suggestions and I can ignore them but this is where I come to the observations part.

The module for Word is not the same as the module for Scrivener The Word and Scrivener modules differ. In Word, I can choose “ignore for now” and a few three other options. I saw no such option in for(?) the Scrivener module. 

The other thing that happens when editing Scrivener files is that (crap; I just realize “that” is a bad word that and should always be deleted) the formatting gets messed up. 

Wait; scratch that whole last sentence and let me rephrase that it: When editing Scrivener files, occasionally the formatting is lost.

Meaning, when I go back to Scrivener, the piece is not formatted as it was before I edited it using ProWritingAid. Specifically, (oops, another adverb; sorry but I couldn’t think of something else to use) when making changes to the beginning of a sentence or paragraph. I end up losing (dang; sorry again; I meant I lose) the indentation for new paragraphs and for dialogue. 

Lest I leave you with the impression I’m unhappy with the product, that’s not the case.  I found the tool useful and plan on using it again.

By the way, in addition to “that”, it also doesn’t like the word “some”. 

~ ~ ~

The above is my version of editing based on what I learned from using ProWritingAid. I’m afraid to run the tool on this post because it would likely chop my prose to bits. Here are the tests available to the writer:

Keep the above in mind; I’ll reference it later.

So, what does the program do? Did it help? Yes and no. It highlighted many areas forcing me to take a closer look at my writing. I made a lot of changes and the reason I said I edited the novel five times is because I was still learning the tool.

I started by running the summary report, which runs all the reports at once. The problem is that different reports highlight different things but they can also overlap. The tool offers suggestions on fixes, but when multiple suggestions overlap, it gets a bit confusing.

So, initially, I ran Grammar, Style, Diction, Readability, Sentence, and Consistency all at the same time. After a while, I got into a flow of looking at those in sequence, one after the other. That made it easier both to edit and to retain more of the flavor of my writing style.

A number of the chapters at the beginning suffered from me not knowing the tool (even as impressed as I was). I should’ve gone back and rechecked them, but I didn’t realize I screwed up a few things until I output the novel for the Kindle and read it.

Realizing what had happened, I re-edited the first part of the book, but — as is my habit — after editing a few chapters I’d save a new file; edit two chapters, save to new file, repeat.

Occasionally, I opened two different versions of the file so I could check passages in different parts of the book. At some point, I must have gotten the working files mixed up and was editing an older version of the novel . . . which again I didn’t catch until I output it for the Kindle and read it. Back to editing I went.

Bottom line, I think I improved the writing  . . . BUT . . . I’m not sure if the latest version is an improvement or not.

I mean, whether it’s an improvement in terms of the style, pacing, and overall experience of reading it. It has fewer errors and tighter writing and I enjoyed re-reading it, but since I practically have it memorized, I’m not seeing it as a new reader would.

What do I mean? Well, let me take the first four paragraphs of Different (one of my favorite flash stories). As usual, the story is pretty much as written. If I were to try and sell it, I’d tweak it a bit, but I didn’t think it needed that much editing . . . but maybe I was wrong.

You saw the words in the graphic above, but here they are again, as written:

Sam slammed the door shut on the way out.  The sound of it closing, finding herself looking at the empty corridor of the apartment building, the sudden quiet after the loud argument . . . all of it overwhelmed her, and she started to cry.

She hated herself for it; she was stronger than this, but sometimes it felt as if the world wanted no part of her.  For not the first time, the thought crossed her mind the world might be better off without her in it.  It was not a serious thought; more of an “I’ll show them!” impulse she would never consider following through on.  “Too rational for that!” Sam thought with a touch of irony.

She could not stay out here in the hallway, but she had not grabbed her wallet, and no way was she going back in. The five miles walk to one of her few friends was out of the question with the snow storm raging outside.

She heard the stair’s door open and quickly wiped away her tears.  Probably one of her nosy, judgmental neighbors.  She could not just stand there and suffer their stares; she decided to head to the basement’s storage areas. Sam headed toward the door, determined to hold the stare of whatever old bitty had just returned home.

~ ~ ~

Gmail – Your ProWritingAid report is the report for the above (one of the features is to have the program send you a PDF of the report). If you bother opening the report, you’ll see a lot of information about those four paragraphs.

Based on that report and the individual suggestions within it, this is the edited version:

Sam slammed the door shut. The sound of it closing, finding herself in the empty corridor of the apartment building, the sudden quiet after the loud argument . . . it overwhelmed her, and she cried.

She hated herself for it; she was stronger than this, but it felt as if the world wanted no part of her and, not the first time, she wondered if it might be better off without her. It was an “I’ll show them!” reaction born of self-pity and not something she’d ever consider. “Too rational for that!” Sam thought with a touch of irony.

She couldn’t stay out here in the hallway, but she hadn’t grabbed her coat and wallet. No way was she going back for them and the snowstorm outside made walking the five miles to her closest friend impractical.

She heard the stair’s door open and wiped away her tears. Probably one of her nosy, judgmental neighbors.  Determined to hold the stare of whatever old bitty had returned home, Sam decided she’d go to the basement’s storage area.

~ ~ ~

Gmail – Your ProWritingAid report after is the report for the edited version. Note the low score for grammar hasn’t changed. That’s because of the “. . .” in the opening paragraph. That’s something Grammarly also hates and constantly flags.

It’s now become a matter of obstinate pride — “. . .” is my version of ellipses and I’ll be danged if I change it!

I mean, if anyone buys my books or stories, well, then, yeah, but not yet; not yet.

Anyway, what do you think?

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