A few years ago, after fiddling around for the umpteenth time with my first novel I happened across a conversation on one of the various boards I’m affiliated with. The discussion concerned professional editing, the huge cost and what one might do to mitigate such cost. A larger than life contributor started by informing me (without reading any of my work) that no one should publish their first novel. Apparently all first novels are only good for one thing, the slush pile and learning how not to find oneself in the slush pile again. Having spent hundreds of hours honing my characters and plot, this wasn’t quite what I’d hoped to hear. With a sigh I could almost hear through my router, the lady in question pointed me in the direction of two online editing tools; Autocrit and Pro Writing Aid.
“Log in, upload your work and either of them will tell you how far you are behind the curve.”
With a, ’I’ll show you,’ attitude, I dutifully did as I was told. I’ve been hooked ever since.
The entirety of my 105,000 word tome has now passed through Pro Writing Aid and I feel I can comment with a degree of expertise on its functionality. I have tried Autocrit but the price held me back from engaging fully.
For the purpose of this blog however, I’ve decided to give them a side by side test using a few paragraphs from my latest novel, ‘The First Shot Fired, Rosewell.’ Although a PWA user, I will attempt to approach this as a neutral.
(Ten minutes later) I’ve just attempted to elicit the free analysis from Autocrit and stumbled into a slight problem – Autocrit no longer provides a ‘free’ analysis, but rather a very generic report (https://www.autocrit.com/). The Autocrit team then require a payment of $30 before I can proceed to see the detail. The interface itself is impressive and the slaes pitch certainly says all the right things. However, given the free version of PWA exists I can’t really see the benefit of paying so much (I bought a two year licence to the premium version of PWA for $40).
Glancing through their sales pitch I have noticed something new – advertised as follows:
‘Want to know how your writing stacks up against other published works of fiction? AutoCrit compares words and sentence constructions from your manuscript to successful published fiction, including mass-market paperbacks and bestsellers.’
It might be a gimmick, but it sounds interesting! I’m still not convinced though; as far as I can see the free version of PWA does virtually everything AutoCrit does, and in my opinion, a little more. I know more is not always necessarily better, but when it comes to free, it’s hard to beat.
To give an idea of what the PWA software can do I uploaded a few hundred words into the programme and received the following comprehensive report:
- A high “glue index” suggests you’re using lots of filler words. Try reducing these. Look at the sticky sentences section below for more specific guidance.
Document Statistics (The key statistics about your document)
594 Word Count
318 Unique Words
291 Word Families
Most Unusual Words
Most Used Words
Your vocabulary was more dynamic (unique words/total) than 52% of ProWritingAid users
Readability Measures (Your text analyzed using common readability measures)
Tip! Readability scores are calculated using a combination of words per sentence and syllables per word. Grade Scores correspond to US school grades. i.e. 5th Grade is very easy to read and easily understood by an average 11-year-old student. To improve readability use shorter words and sentences.
84 Flesch Reading Ease
Target > 60
Grade Level Measures
|Automated Readability Index||2.1|
|Dale-Chall Grade||7 – 8|
|Flesch Reading Ease||84.1|
Readability by Paragraph
22 Easy-to-Read Paragraphs
1 Slightly Difficult-to-Read Paragraph
2 Very Difficult-to-Read Paragraphs
Overused Words (Words and phrases that are overused compared to published books)
Tip! We compare your document to published writing in the same genre to show overused words and constructs. Identifying and reducing these will improve your writing. Note: Often this requires more than substituting a different word.
1 Overused Words
|generic descriptions (watch/notice/observe/very)||3||Reduce by 1|
14 Not Overused
Tip! Varying your sentence length keeps the reader engaged. Too many long sentences are hard to read.
5.9 Sentence Variety
Target > 3
6.3 Sentence Length
Target between 11 and 18
0 Long Sentences
Your sentence variety was higher than 30% of ProWritingAid users
Your sentence length was higher than 12% of ProWritingAid users
Sentence Lengths (The length of all the sentences in your document. Varying your sentence length engages your reader.)
Tip! Look for areas where all your sentences are around the same length. These areas will benefit from more variety to maintain the reader’s interest.
Tip! Highlights common style issues such as passive voice, hidden verbs and adverb usage.
4 Passive Index
Target < 25
0 Hidden Verbs
2 outside Dialogue
Most Used Adverbs
0 Repeated Sentence Starts
4 Style Suggestions
Top Style Suggestions
|You have to let Let||1|
|began pointing – pointed||1|
|in turn (omit)||1|
|Alright – All right||1|
Your readability was better (suggestions/sentences) than 78% of ProWritingAid users
Grammar & Spelling
29 Grammar Issues
Top Grammar Suggestions
|‘Because I still have an ounce of||1|
|‘What more can there be? We’re stood||1|
|‘Dr Hunter, what you know is just||1|
|‘Yup,’ said the Major. ‘Look at Nazi Germany. If||1|
1 Spelling Issues
Top Spelling Suggestions
|iPhone – orphan|earphone|oven|affine|avenue||1|
Your grammar was better (mistakes/sentences) than 67% of ProWritingAid users
Sticky Sentences (Sticky Sentences contain too many common words. They slow your reader down.)
Tip! Sticky sentences are ones containing a high percentage of glue words. Glue words are the 200 or so most common words in English (excluding the personal pronouns). You can think of the glue words as the empty space in your writing. The more of them there are the more empty space your readers have to pass through to get to the actual meaning. By cutting down the amount of glue words in your sentences you help expose the true meaning and make the reader’s job easier.
8 Sticky Sentences
46.5% Glue Index
Target < 40%
Your glue index was better (glue words/total) than 30% of ProWritingAid users
52.9% Dialogue Tagged
Top Dialogue Tags
Your use of dialogue tags was higher than 73% of ProWritingAid users
Pacing (Shows areas of slower pacing by looking at verb tenses.)
Tip! Dark areas in the chart indicate areas of slow pacing (backstory in creative writing). Where you have large chunks of slower pacing, try to add some faster pacing to keep the reader more engaged.
1.4% Slow Pacing
Transitions (Looks at words and phrases that link your writing together)
Tip! Transitions are useful when you’re trying to structure an argument. They link your sentences together forming a flowing and cohesive structure.
Target > 25%
Top 3-word phrases
|let us help||2|
|to the next||2|
|the Major pulled||2|
Top 2-word phrases
Top 1-word phrases
Cliches & Redundancies (Cliches can make your writing sound tired)
Top Redundancies Found
|hurry it up||1|
Consistency (Checks for consistent spelling, hyphenation and capitalization.)
1 Inconsistent Spelling
0 Inconsistent Hyphenation
2 Inconsistent Capitalization
|Curls/Smart Double Quotes||2|
|Straight Double Quotes||0|
|Curly/Smart Single Quotes||73|
|Straight Single Quotes||0|
|up||3||Avoid using prepositions such as “up” as the last word in a sentence|
|of||2||Avoid using prepositions such as “of” as the last word in a sentence|
|about||1||Avoid using prepositions such as “about” as the last word in a sentence|
|as||1||Avoid using prepositions such as “as” as the last word in a sentence|
|at||1||Avoid using prepositions such as “at” as the last word in a sentence|
Vague & Abstract Words
|exceptionally||1||Try to use a simpler wording. Examples: only when; in this case|
As you can see the report is very comprehensive and will certainly give even the most pedantic of writers something to think about. Although I must admit to ignoring at least half the reports, the grammar/spelling, repeated words, consistency, and adverb reports have been a godsend.
I’m currently in the middle of crowdfunding my first novel, The Atlantis Deception, via Unbound.com. I firmly believe they would have rejected it had the novel not been edited via PWA before submission. With any luck the copy editing process will also be less traumatic!
In summary, if you are considering using an online editing tool, and have sufficient funds, I’d suggest comparing the two yourself. If not just go with Pro Writing Aid and see how you get on. It is free and good free stuff is hard to pass up.
If you have found this blog useful I would really appreciate your support in pledging to publish, ‘The Atlantis Deception.’ The £10 pledge is currently half price with promo code atlantis5. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Best wishes, Mark
(I should add I’m not affiliated to either programme in any way – just though it would make an interesting blog!)