Written: On Self-editing – Our Write Side

December 18, 2015December 18, 2015

Last time, I shared one of the first stories I wrote back in 2010. Words rained down on me, and my feet got wet. Regardless of the years I’d spent writing, it was brand new, and I made a lot of mistakes. One of my biggest issues in the beginning involved passive voice and telling instead of showing. I promised I would run my story through ProWritingAid (Did you know you can click our link and get a discount on a premium account with our code: WRITESIDE ?) I did that this past week, and today, I’ll break down what the editing program found and how I fixed it.

This is a screenshot of ProWritingAid‘s analysis…(took 3 to show you everything, Right click on each image, open as a new tab to view them larger.)

Now the easy part is to click on each category that mentions an issue. I’ll click on “Overused Words” because I have three in the story…

This is a partial page, but it demonstrates a good portion of what you find. I circled the overused words listed and their locations in the document. This makes the editing a lot easier and less time-consuming, also. Again, right click to enlarge.

Let’s work on “look.” I need to remove 2 instances. Let’s find the 4 occurrences…

  1. This Christmas did not look very promising, either.
  2. With a look of disbelief, she took the ornament from him and put it in her pocket.
  3. She looked through the peep hole and noticed it was the Santa from the park.
  4. Her eyes left Kevin’s face long enough to look for Santa, but he was gone.

Hmmm. The first one reads fine the way it is, no need to change. The second is a tell vs. show, so I need to fix that. For the third and fourth, I could use a synonym to replace the word in both instances or find a better way to state the sentences. Here’s my fix:

  1. This Christmas did not look very promising, either.
  2. Aghast, she took the ornament from him and put it in her pocket. (Aghast describes a look of disbelief, tightening the sentence, giving the reader a visual, and eliminating the excess word)
  3. A glance through the peephole revealed the park Santa standing there. (Just by changing the excess word, this whole sentence went from passive to active.)
  4. Her eyes left Kevin’s face long enough to search for Santa, but he left. (The excess word also directed my attention to the passive “he was gone (by zombies)” so in addition to removing the excess word, I activated the sentence as well.)

The next logical step would be to move on to each respective category, one at a time, and fix the errors. Once you’ve completed, I highly suggest you run it through ProWritingAid again and again, until you get it just right.

I admit that I don’t always understand what all of it means, especially “vague and abstract words.” I know it applies to strengthening your sentences, but it’s not always clear on how to do that. There are plenty of tutorials you can watch to get familiar with the program, and someone from ProWritingAid is always standing by on twitter to help you.

Discovering this editing tool has not only changed my writing for the better, but it has taught me many things as well to consider and apply as I write, so I have less mistakes to fix later. It also decreases the amount of time I have to spend editing that NaNoWriMo book I just finished 18 days ago.

Most publishers require final drafts, which means as perfect as you can get it, not written and never looked at again. I know many writers that cannot afford to hire a professional editor to do this for them, so they attempt to self-edit. By using a tool such as this, it greatly increases your chances of catching everything and improving your writing overall.

Seriously, if you are not using ProWritingAid, you should be. It’s even more affordable through our affiliate program. Just click this link and add WRITESIDE in as the code when you check out, and you will receive your discount. If you find you still need help, there are several editors here you can talk to. Use the contact form or post for help in our forum.