Apr 112014

I’ve been subscribing to the AutoCrit editing software site for nearly a year and have just renewed my membership. I’m also an affiliate and will earn a commission on memberships purchased through the links in this post.

But, rather than write reams about the site, I thought I’d show you how I’ve used it. Below is a screenshot of part of my manuscript. On the left is the AutoCrit report and on the right is my revised document with my edits. The legend for the AutoCrit report is as follows:

Overused Words shown in red. (Only if over limit).
Repeated Phrases shown in blue.
Repeated words are shown in green and underlined.

And my edits in the right-hand screen are in teal.

Below the image, I’ll go through some of the edits I made following the analysis through AutoCrit.

Click to enlarge (will open in a new tab)

Click to enlarge (will open in a new tab)

1. Staircase and stairs: difficult words to avoid using in the first draft while I was describing the action, since I was referring to two different staircases and also needed to specify whether the characters were going up or down or coming off the stairs and going straight. But I’ve cut it from six instances to three in this passage.

2. Door/doors: again, a lot of different doors opening and closing in this passage, and not easy to cut instances of use without losing clarity. I deleted one, where “sound of creaking” satisfactorily hinted at a door doing the creaking.

3. Another: a necessary word due to what was occurring in this passage, but I managed to delete one out of two here in close proximity.

4. Unless and really: these are generally overused words, so I checked whether they were necessary in context, and, in dialogue, they do fit the way the characters would speak. Since I only had one instance of each in this passage I let them stay.

5. See: this one doesn’t bother me too much. One instance is in dialogue and the other in the narrative, and they fit (with the second instance helping to bring the narrative back to Maddie’s POV, rather than general description. Read the paragraph without “Maddie could see the balconies formed a square...”—it feels less personal).

6. Castle and maybe: these are concentrated in a section of dialogue where the two characters echo each other—so it lends to the realism of teen-speak. The third “maybe” was unintentional, though, so I’ve used “probably” instead.

7. Each: two instances in one paragraph; I’ve removed one.

8. Said: doesn’t usually bother me—it is a neutral word that most readers don’t register as a dialogue tag. But here I can use Maddie’s actions as a tag instead of “said”, which removes one instance.

9. Looked: this is listed under “see/look” etc. In this case Maddie has to look at Sophie; later, in contrast, she “turn[s] to stare at” her.

10. Turned: I wanted to keep “turned to stare”, so I’ve changed “turned the handle” to “tried the handle”, and “turned the corner” to “around the corner”.

11. Locked: a deliberate echo: the repetition stays.

So that should give you an idea of how useful AutoCrit may or may not be for you. It still requires a human brain to go through and make the decisions, and it can take some time to work through and try and find alternative phrasing and synonyms. But it’s a lot quicker than running multiple Find and Replace searches or even creating a Macro. And it’s certainly more reliable than simply scanning your manuscript yourself for repeated words, however carefully you may read. I have to note, though, that it does mess up formatting somewhat, so it’s best to use the reports for a side-by-side comparison, rather than making changes to your manuscript inside AutoCrit.

There’s very little in terms of a learning curve, but the AutoCrit website does have a demonstration video to show you how to use the site. There's also a free "lite" option. Take a look.

Aug 232013

The following post is sponsored by Grammarly. I also ran this post through their grammar check just for fun, because I knew it would trip over my grammar blunder examples. I’m wicked that way! See my results below.

Grammarly Analysis

Grammarly Analysis of This Post

Writing has become more conversational than ever before thanks to blogging and social media. But does this mean grammatical standards should be tossed out the window completely with the defence of “I write like I speak”? It pays to be aware of how your conversational style is perceived internationally. Are these quirky variances tripping you up?

Using Different as a Comparison

“Different [than]” instead of “Different to

Comparisons involve three “steps”:
good, better, best
happy, happier, happiest

...whereas a judgement, statement, or opinion is specific to a single option:
unique Continue reading »

Jun 082013

Madison Lane Cover Sketch - Artwork by Sandra SalsburyMy teen science-fantasy book, Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin, will be out later in the year - at this stage I anticipate September or October. This is a very first sketch for the cover illustration by the talented Sandra Salsbury.

Here is the blurb for the book:

Be careful what you wish for.

When Madison Lane is given a magic wand, she wishes for the thing she wants the most – or so she thinks. As she tries to reverse the consequences of her wish she is pulled into another world and a quest to compensate for using the Wand of Rasputin. It is there that she discovers the real, terrifying cost of making a wish. And how impossible it is to control her own thoughts. One more wish and she loses everyone and everything she loves.

And now someone else is after the wand. Someone who will stop at nothing to get it. Someone with an unfair advantage.

Please join my mailing list here (or by filling in the form to your right) if you would like to receive updates, sneak peeks, and other happy news :-)

Jan 232013

Dancing Children, photo by Valerie EverettIt was a day for dancing, Eloise thought. A week of rain and now weak sunlight trickled through the dissolving clouds and everything sparkled. But she had vowed never to dance again.

She looked down at her purple fairy gumboots as she squelched through the muddy grass. What a wonderful sound they made. Not as nice as the clack, clack sound Trina was making on the pathway. Eloise turned her head and grinned at her sister.

“I wish there was some way to tell them apart,” the lady at the grocer’s had once said to their mother. That was before the accident, of course. Now they were The Normal One and The One in the Wheelchair.

But today Trina had legs. Shiny metal legs that went clack, clack on the pathway. Faster and faster she went until Eloise could feel joy-thrill-wonder-relief coming from her the way she could sometimes feel a tiny bit of the worst of her pain. The clack, clack was the beat of a song, now. Eloise stepped onto the pathway and took her sister’s hands.

And they danced.

This story was written for all the paralympic athletes and others who inspire by overcoming the difficulties they face, and was prompted by this gorgeous photo of Cody McCasland and his carbon blades.

Photo credit: Dancing Children by Valerie Everett

Jan 112013

Musee Mecanique Fortune Teller Reading Tarot Cards

Musee Mecanique Fortune Teller Reading Tarot Cards, by Vicki MacLeod

I'm in the revision phase of my middle grade fantasy novel. I love this part. Revision is layering. It's the search for symbolism and metaphor and meaning. It's digging into the richness of what I've written and discovering that my planning and outlining paid off when I allowed the writing of the first draft to flow organically.

This book stumped me for a while in the search for its theme. Almost unbelievably, it was staring me right in the face. I had to change two characters to find it, but the wealth of additional subtext that opened up was so worth the extra work. It forms part of one of the book's twists, so I don't want to reveal too much, but the main theme is "taking responsibility for what you create" - very apt for me right now, on many levels from my writing to raising my children. Last year was a hard one, parenting-wise, and my son and I need to do some revision on our relationship this year, too.
Continue reading »

photo by: MRS.HART
Dec 122012

My daughter is nearly a year old, and has been walking for a month, and, thus, our motherbaby dyad is slowly coming to an end. Because of her reflux and the distress that lying horizontally has caused her, we have spent the year quite literally attached. This is how I managed to get all my editing done this year:

Dyad1     Dyad2

Oct 172012

Hustle is a British TV show about a group of likeable con artists and the elaborate confidence tricks they pull. In addition to having criminals as the protagonists, the show also breaks other storytelling rules (like “never cheat your reader”) to great effect. Here are some ideas you could borrow to up the ante in your own stories.

Cast of Hustle - Robert Glenister, Kelly Adams, Adrian Lester, Robert Vaughn, Jaime Murray, Matt Di Angelo

1. The Loveable Rogue Protagonist

The first risk Hustle takes is that of the lawbreaking hero. Continue reading »

Oct 042012

Fearful Fascination, photograph by Jake Phlieger

When I was a young child a little girl called Fiona Harvey was kidnapped from the same town where I lived. Parents of that town - my parents, my friends' parents - clamped down on our freedom out of concern for our safety and taught us about "stranger danger" - as well they should have. I still walked home from school almost every single day, but things had changed.

My fears grew slowly. I travelled to the UK and felt able to take risks I wouldn't have dared to in the place where I grew up. I lost more innocence, not because I took those risks, but because others felt entitled to abuse my naivety simply because I had it. I took a lot of supposedly far bigger risks that had no negative consequences for me at all. Continue reading »

photo by: felsadog
Sep 252012

eReadersAm I the only one for whom the proverbial lightbulb takes several small clicks of the switch before it glows brightly enough to get my attention? Last year I read and reviewed Noah Lukeman's free ebook, How to Write a Great Query Letter. In it, Lukeman berates authors who spend years working on their manuscripts only to pound out sub-par query letters in one sitting. His opinion is that writers should spend as much time on the query letter as they do on writing the book. Click one of the light switch: Why does one have to waste so much precious writing time "crafting" a god-damn query letter? Oh, yes, I get that it is supposedly a work of art that showcases the writer's talent, abilities, and intelligence. But, really? I'm getting a bit jaded in my thirties. I'd rather write another book that could, hopefully, be read by many eager readers, than "showcase" my writing talent in a letter to one person who may not even exist*.
Continue reading »

photo by: steffens77