This past week, I took a break from working on “Henrietta’s Legacy” to get a head start on blog posts for the coming month. It’s called juggling, I think. I’m committed to doing another NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) Camp in April. I’ve set a goal of 30,000 words in 30 days. That’s low for NaNoWriMo veterans, but it’s a goal I’m sure I can reach. It’s entirely possible to write 1000 words a day, every day, so long as I do not let myself get distracted by other activities, like doing the laundry or grocery buying, or planting tomatoes, or keeping a blog up to date. One way I can keep my work focused is to have a backlog of blog posts ready, so once again I’ve been exploring and evaluating new writing programs.
Today, I have new editing software that promises not just to correct one’s existing manuscript but also to make the user a better writer from now on. Sounds good, right? I bought it, downloaded the program, and ran it on the first completed chapter of the new book. The program offered a whole set of grades, and most of mine were not passing. Imagine: this old English teacher, with thirteen published books, FAILED the grammar section. Horrors! I’m really bad at this! At first, I was angry; then I started to realize that the program has its own definition of grammar, which includes typos, extra spaces between words, spelling variations, and missing punctuation. I’m still not very good, but I can attribute at least some of my mistakes to fat fingers and blind typing rather than pure ignorance.
But first things first. The program is called ProWriting Aid. That’s what it is, of course, although the title is not very catchy or memorable. This is a serious program, written by experts, and their advice does not come cheap. But then, no editing software will cost you as much as an editor would. A free version exists, but it has several limitations. It can only handle 500 words at a time. If you have a manuscript with 100,000 words in it, you’re going to spend a whole lot of time chopping it into 200 pieces and then loading them, one at a time, into the free version. I opted for a one-year license at $50.00 that does not limit my file size. This version works from within several different writing programs, like Microsoft (both Windows and MAC) and Scrivener. I tried it with Scrivener and found that it works extremely well—much more smoothly than Grammarly, which requires a certain amount of cutting and pasting even in its most expensive form.
Next, I considered the topics covered. The first shot at analyzing a chapter is called the “Summary.” This includes scores in four key areas, along with the document statistics (number of words, etc.), and a quick analysis of the main problem. Mine said my “glue index” was too high, and I had entirely too many sticky sentences. Now, I had no idea what that meant, but I would eventually find the explanations. But first, I had to make my way through an analysis of my vocabulary, sentence length, readability, dialog tags, pacing, transitions, clichés, consistency, diction, grammar, spelling, and style. Each heading gave me scores, numbers of corrections needed, and a comparison to all other users of the program. For example, my readability level was a 73, which, it turned out, corresponded to the average sixth-grade reading level. It also said my readability score was better than 78% of all other users.
By the time I finished reading the whole summary, I was convinced that I needed to make major improvements. But where were all these problems and mistakes? So far, I had just seen final scores. To locate individual errors, read the explanations, and make corrections, I needed to run the program again, and again, and again because the program covers just one issue at a time.
Next time, I’ll tell you how the correction process worked for me.