Nearly There Now

Editor Leah got back with her notes for draft two of Every Vow You Break (formerly known as Novel #2). There were two of them: 1) it’s brilliant and 2) she loves it. The story, plot, character and setting notes from draft one are now all fixed! Hurrah!

Before it goes to the copy editor, though, I’ve asked for another couple of weeks to get right on down to the word level, polishing each sentence so that it conveys as succinctly as possible what I am trying to say. I’m also:

  • looking out for repeated words and overused words
  • making sure my sentences are varied in length and rhythm and don’t all start with pronouns (makes for boring paragraphs)
  • Knocking out clichés unless they are either the only way of describing something, or a character note
  • Getting rid of as many adverbs as possible, by rephrasing if necessary to make the sentence more dynamic
  • Losing the passive voice unless it is making a point.

I was surprised at how much of all this I didn’t spot in Cuckoo until the copy editor’s notes came back, and I’m determined that this novel will need a lot less work on it when she gets her hands on it. My dream is one note: nothing to correct. Unlikely, though… it’s easy to let one or two things slip in 120,000 words.

To help me, I’m using this amazing software called AutoCrit, which analyses the text and points up most of what I am looking for. I felt as if I was cheating when I first gave it a go, (I even hesitated about writing about it here) but no-one would query the use of a spellcheck, and, if used properly and carefully, this is really just one stage beyond.

It’s most useful for finding repeated words, which are very easy to not see if you are reading something for the twentieth time, but it pinpoints a lot of other very useful stuff as well. My only caveat is that it shouldn’t be used too slavishly. Style is a very subjective thing, and you shouldn’t let any software interfere with that. You need to know what you’re doing to use it effectively, and, obviously, you still need to read your text very closely indeed. It’s quite helpful, though, for pointing out one’s own individual foibles – those lazy little tics that we tend to revert to when we are too busy telling our story to consider fully whether we are doing so in the best way.

Anyway, give it a go – you can use it on up to 500 words for free. I’d love to hear if anyone else has used it and what you think about it.

Back from Edinburgh soon, not a moment too soon. I’m all festivalled out. But I’ve had a great time, and LittleSon has really enjoyed seeing at least two shows every day. We’ve also snuck off to do some less highbrow things too – Cowboys and Aliens, which I enjoyed far more than my critically acute eleven year old boy, and the Edinburgh Dungeon, which scared both of us witless.

6 thoughts on “Nearly There Now

  1. Really interesting post, Julia. I know that my first will show some of these dreadful new writer slips. I worked hard to eliminate as many as possible earlier in the summer, but feel sure that some will have sneaked through… at least I’m sure I’ve somewhere to go with my second novel. Improving I definitely am! Software sounds interesting too. Work on pcs? Know you’re a Mac girl.

    1. Hi Laura! I read The Talented Mr Ripley last summer, and I spotted a typo, and that’s, what, 40 years or more after publication? But the style is perfect, of course. Perhaps the whole business of writing on computers is so fast that we get carried away and forget our writing manners. Whereas slogging it out in longhand or on a manual typewriter and real manuscripts meant that you were just more careful. However, if you are contracted to write a book a year, as most new writers are, I think you can be excused for taking whatever help you can to make sure you get it right. Autocrit is online: you use it on your browser, so it doesn’t matter what platform you’re on. When’s your publication date?

  2. You know what, Julia, it’s rare to find a book without a typo. Don’t remember finding one in yours, mind. Read Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman recently (brilliant!) and found two… totally agree with what you say about writing longhand and old-fashioned typewriters and pressures on authors like your good self. Publication date – scarily soon. Six weeks.

  3. Revising like mad write (!) now (apart from a week away of r&r which starts tomorrow) so delighted to hear about AutoCrit. Will use it as soon as I get back and will let you know how I get on. Another pair of eyes – even electronic ones – is valuable. Doubt if it will spot the clunky phrases that make you wince once they appear in print but hey, no one said it was going to be easy. Agree with Laura – inspired title. Loved the last one too

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