3. Helpful Tools
There are a few helpful tools that assist writers in catching a large portion of mistakes. These tools will help you catch many errors, but the work is far from complete from our self-editing. Keep in mind, this is course grit polishing. These help smooth out the rough edges and find obvious problems. Each step of editing reveals more problems, but requires a finer effort to correct. Our goal at this point is to locate and remove mistakes that you wouldn’t want to waste time on during a critique session.
Text to Audio.
Few things will make glaring mistakes apparent more than hearing it read. Reading 300 pages of manuscript to yourself isn’t practical. Plus, there will be a point where you disengage and go into autopilot. However, text to audio allows you to focus solely upon active listening.
One of the best text to audio applications on the market is NextUp’s Text Aloud. The cost is about $30 and well worth the investment. You can buy it without voices, but I highly recommend adding a voice engine. The Windows default voices will work, but hearing a natural sounding voice is much easier on the ear. If you only buy one editing tool, this would be the purchase to make. Text Aloud also allows users to watch the text as it speaks. Odd sounding sentences stand out and the vast majority of blatant errors will be found while listening. The application can be purchased by clicking here.
Editor by Serenity Software is a great tool for self-editing. This software is not quite as user friendly as it should be, but is still useful for identifying homophones, wordy phrases, gives the number of redundant phrases, and offering suggestions to fix common problems. It is by no means a substitute for good human editing, but it does help polish the work to a more presentable state. It takes grammar checking beyond the capabilities of Word’s features, but the nuances of the English language make it impossible to automate all editing – for now.
There are many editing applications on the internet, and some are better than others. Once you get used to Editor’s interface, it is one of the best on the market. The cost is $55 – $75 if purchased with the Word plugin.
There are some applications available on the internet that make bold claims. One even uses multiple websites that claim to be testing sites. Of course, their product is always on top, but the product is overpriced and poorly designed. As of this writing, Editor is one of the best products on the market.
4. Effective Critiquing
Now we are getting into the finer grit of polishing our gem of a manuscript. Just as fine grit will do little to remove the rough edges of a rock, critiquing will do little good if the rough edges are still present when you present your work.
Taking a rough draft to a critiquing session is a waste of time. Never submit your work to others until it is polished to the highest quality self-editing can take it. When a rough draft is presented, critiquers will point out the obvious mistakes and will do little to identify the problems your eyes can’t see. Having someone show you a mistake you should have caught during proof reading will not benefit your work. Critiquing begins where self-editing ends. Of course, your editing will start up again when issues come to light, but you should go through the tedious editing process before inviting critiques.
Unfortunately, critiquing is a subjective process. Often, it’s the blind leading the blind. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Though a critique group may be filled with unpublished authors and inexperienced writers, it can still have value. If we look at critiquing as the preparation of our manuscript for publishing, disappointment is around the corner. Critiquing is one step in the process of going from a rock to a gem. It is not the process, but only part of the process.
Critiquing becomes ineffective when writers lose sight of its place in the process. Critiquing doesn’t replace self-editing. Critiquing does not replace professional editing. Critiquing is allowing other eyes to see your work, determining if it makes sense, and seeing if there are glaring mistakes you have overlooked. A critique session allows others to read the flow of your work, and determine if something makes sense, or if things are hard to follow.
The truth is, few critique group members have the skills to identify subject-verb agreement, past and present tense conflicts, or any number of grammatical problems with your work. By the nature of most critique meetings, it is impossible to follow the plot close enough to discover plot holes and contradictions in the story. If you are only reviewing 3-10 pages a week, by the time the group gets to the end of your 300 page novel, no one will remember the structure of your story well enough to identify problems. It is for these reasons we must realize the limited scope of critiquing.
A group of critique partners is good because many eyes are looking at your work. If two or more identify the same problem, it’s a good sign something is wrong. However, there is another option for critiquing every writer should seek. Partnering with one person who can consistently review your manuscript and you his or hers. When someone can read your work from beginning to end, it eliminates the blind spots and they can point out problems the reader will experience.