Editing a book? Looking for guidance? Editing takes skill, but Autocrit can help. A few months ago, I was lucky enough to get a chance to access an affiliate version of the program AutoCrit, the amazing new tool for writers. AutoCrit is an instant book editor that within minutes identifies common early draft problems such as slow pacing, overused words, cliches and many more. With many other resources such as a Writer’s Library of articles, AutoCrit has made the process of editing a book painless for thousands of writers. Here, I speak to Nina Davies, author and founder of AutoCrit.
Charlotte: How did AutoCrit get started? What was the original inspiration to create it?
Nina: AutoCrit was developed to solve the problem of a “second set of eyes” for your manuscript. Before AutoCrit, it was difficult to see certain mistakes in your own manuscript or even be aware of certain fiction style rules to follow. So, the AutoCrit Editing Wizard was created as a quick and easy tool where you can copy your manuscript in, hit the button, and voila – reports are instantly generated that detail where you overused and repeated words, repeated phrases, used clichés, and more. The Editing Wizard also highlights sections of your book with slow pacing, visually represents the length of each sentence, and scores your writing using a number of different readability tests. An extensive Help Section details how to interpret each report and use the feedback to improve your manuscript.
One of the most fun reports to create was the Overused Words report. It was tough to know “how many is too many” times to use a certain word – so I did research of published fiction, found average usage, and applied those averages to the Wizard. Now you can compare how many times you used the most commonly used words to that of the published fiction average. The report points out where you used the words, so you can edit as you see fit.
In addition to the Editing Wizard, I thought it was important that AutoCrit also include the Writer’s Library, a FREE resource of articles on all aspects writing fiction [not just how to edit a book], written by published authors and subject matter experts. There are hundreds of articles – it’s a great resource to use at any point of the writing, editing, and publishing process.
Charlotte: How many writers currently use AutoCrit to edit a book?
Nina: We have thousands of writers, authors, and editors that depend on AutoCrit every day to help improve their writing and accelerate the manuscript editing process.
Charlotte: Do you see AutoCrit as a program for a writer to use on their own before sending their manuscript to an editor or do you see it as taking on the role of the editor?
Nina: AutoCrit is designed to help writers take more control over the editing process. It used to be that if writers wanted help with their manuscripts, they had no choice but to hire an editor. Now, AutoCrit provides a huge range of technical and mechanical feedback, which allows an author to do more self-editing and decide if they need to hire an editor.
Some authors also want feedback on subjective areas like plot, character development or structure, and go on to hire an editor after running it through the Editing Wizard. The advantage is they are bringing a much more mechanically polished manuscript to the editor. The editing process will be smoother and help the editor focus on those big-picture issues instead of getting caught up in the mechanical areas. The result? Fewer revisions for the writer and a less expensive editing process.
Charlotte: What are some of the mistakes or weaknesses that AutoCrit would identify in a manuscript? Do these include grammar mistakes or are they mostly literary weakness such as tropes or clichés?
Nina: AutoCrit Editing Wizard looks at more than 20 of the most common pitfalls and problem areas in fiction manuscripts. It looks for repeated words and phrases, variance in sentence length, use of adverbs, clichés and redundancies, and improper use of dialogue tags. It also reviews pacing, overall readability of the manuscript, even points out places where the writer is telling rather than showing.
Each report is aimed at tightening prose, eliminating extra words and clunky sentence structures, and polishing the writing. The Wizard also looks for some grammar mistakes, like passive voice, and we are in the process of adding an overall grammar and spelling checker. But AutoCrit’s focus is on more in-depth areas that truly weaken the overall strength and readability of the manuscript.
Charlotte: How does AutoCrit work to identify these mistakes? Does the program suggest solutions to these mistakes?
Nina: The Editing Wizard is based on extensive research of successful published fiction, a close understanding of fiction and style rules, and many years of tweaking the product to meet the needs of our growing user base.
The Wizard delivers an individualized report on each of the areas it looks at to identify the issues and areas in the manuscript that need attention. We provide extensive information on how to interpret each report and apply the feedback to your writing. Many users refer to this documentation regularly to ensure they understand how to get the most out of each report.
As for individual suggestions to fix the problem, that’s where the authors themselves come in. We understand that incorporating the feedback is subjective and needs human interpretation. Many times removing a single overused word or phrase, for example, will end up in a complete paragraph revision. The author is the best person to make the decision of if, and how, to revise their work.
Charlotte: What are some of the standards AutoCrit uses to identify something as a weakness? For example, at what point would AutoCrit determine too many adverbs have been used or how does it determine that certain words are too similar?
Nina: We did extensive research of successful published fiction to determine the averages for each of the categories in the Overused Words report (adverbs being one of those categories.) The report compares the number of adverbs in your manuscript, for instance, with the average found in published fiction. This helps writers see how their work compares to other novels in the marketplace.
The Wizard also includes a number of reports that just analyzes your own writing, rather than comparing it to published fiction. Our Phrases Summary report, for example, identifies the two-, three- and four-word phrases you use throughout your manuscript and tells you how frequently you are using them. The goal is to give you a big-picture perspective of the phrases you may rely on too much as a writer, as well as the repeated gestures and actions that your characters do a little too often. Too many similar phrases and actions can become quite noticeable very quickly. Knowing how often you use them can help you get a quick sense of whether or not you need to mix it up.
Charlotte: What makes AutoCrit different from other manuscript editing programs or even from programs like Microsoft Word? Microsoft Word includes a basic spelling and grammar check, but it doesn’t address any of the literary or mechanical weaknesses of fiction writing.
Nina: You’re absolutely right on with your analysis of Microsoft Word not addressing the literary or mechanical weaknesses of fiction writing. AutoCrit is focused on highlighting more complex areas of manuscripts that are difficult to spot and go far beyond basic spelling and grammar check programs.
It was built specifically for fiction writers (although all types of writers use the tool) and helps provide that specialized insight that you can’t get from any other program. The Editing Wizard is the most comprehensive and applicable tool available to fiction writers. We also offer excellent customer support and answer many questions every day by users on both writing in general and use of the Wizard.
Charlotte: What are some of the benefits of using AutoCrit as opposed to a person manually editing a manuscript? Do you think AutoCrit is more effective and accurate than a person editing it?
Nina: Human editing is great. But it takes a lot of time and can be subjective, depending on the editor’s personal perspective. AutoCrit is objective. It’s available 24 hours a day, so results are instantly available. It’s generally much more affordable. And writers can run their manuscripts through the program as they are drafting and make changes on the spot, which they can’t necessarily do with a human editor.
As far as effectiveness, that depends on what the author needs. If they want feedback on subjective areas like plot, character development or structure, a human editor is going to be more effective; on the other hand, a human editor may not be able to fully address all the big picture issues, all the mechanical issues and all of the technical issues in a manuscript at once. But AutoCrit looks at more than 20 areas in a manuscript instantly. In terms of accuracy, a human editor may not spot every adverb in the manuscript, but AutoCrit will identify every last one, every single time. Many of our writers find that consistency invaluable.
Charlotte: What types of manuscripts does AutoCrit work best with? Any that it does not work as well with?
Nina: AutoCrit focuses on fiction manuscripts of any length and style. It was designed in part because fiction can be tricky, and so many authors struggled to get specialized feedback that applied specifically to fiction. Writings of any length work really well in the program, from a flash fiction story of 300 words to a manuscript of 100,000 words and beyond.
That said, we do have writers that utilize some of our non-specialized reporting features for journalism, blog writing, business writing, and many types of nonfiction writing. For example, dialogue tags are mainly a fiction issue, but repeated words and phrases is something that applies to all types of writing.
Charlotte: How would AutoCrit work with more contemporary or experimental manuscripts that may transgress more traditional writing, such as purposeful repetition of words or sentence lengths?
Nina: One of the great things about AutoCrit is that it gives the writer full control. It identifies issues like repetition or sentence length variation, but it doesn’t automatically make any changes. That means the writer can easily review a highlighted area and then decide if she wants to make a change.
Charlotte: The program also includes the “Writer’s Library,” a wide array of articles written by authors and others in the field. From where did you accrue most of these articles or were they written specifically for the program? How do you think these articles would benefit a writer using AutoCrit?
Nina: The Writer’s Library is a collection of articles acquired over the lifetime of AutoCrit. The collection includes a combination of articles written specifically by the authors for AutoCrit and “reprinted” articles with permission from each of the article authors. They have been compiled over the years mainly through networking and connecting with AutoCrit users.
The goal of the library is to provide a resource to AutoCrit users and the writing community on everything from story development and the craft of writing, to finding an agent and pitching your novel, and even how to stay motivated and solve writer’s block. Plans are in the works to continue to refine and grow the articles in the library.
Charlotte: What is some of the positive feedback you’ve received so far from users, readers, published authors, etc?
Nina: I am constantly blown away by how much writers love AutoCrit. I receive at least an email or two every day from writers who tell me how useful they find the Wizard. Here is feedback I received today:
“AutoCrit is the best tool out there to help writers write better. Unlike a human editor, the software relentlessly exposes weakness in my prose. I’m working through my manuscript chapter by chapter, re-crafting sentences and paragraphs. It was a little humbling at first, but once I realized how much it helped me improve my writing, I was sold.”
“Autocrit eliminates ‘lazy eye,’ as I like to call it, the tendency to look right past obvious issues in the manuscript. It’s the ‘crit partner’ I’ve never had!”
I love hearing from published authors who are on their sixth or seventh book and just discovered AutoCrit. They now use the Wizard to polish their drafts before sending the manuscript to their publisher. I also love hearing from writers who have struggled for years to finish a manuscript or land a publishing contract, and then accomplish those goals after using AutoCrit – it happens all the time. It’s wonderful that AutoCrit is a part of so many success stories.
Charlotte: Do you plan to expand the functionality of AutoCrit as it grows even more popular, such as gaining new features or services? If so, how do you think it will change?
Nina: Absolutely. We are working right now on some big enhancements that users will see in the next few months, including adding spelling and grammar check functionality. We’re enhancing the editing process so making edits to your manuscript right within AutoCrit will be even simpler than it already is. The reports are the heart of AutoCrit, and we’re working on adding several powerful new tools that will be specific and customizable to your writing. We also have a few other tricks up our sleeves that we know AutoCrit users will love.
Long term, AutoCrit will continue to evolve based on feedback from our users, advances in technology, and the evolution of the publishing space. We are committed to investing in our users and their success long term and will do everything possible to exceed expectations.
Charlotte: How can our readers contact you or get more information on AutoCrit?
Nina: The best way to learn about AutoCrit is to create a free guest account, copy text in, and see the results for yourself. Of course, I love talking with current and prospective AutoCrit uses via email or on our Facebook page, so please get in touch.
Combining a deep understanding of the rules of fiction writing with many years in technology, Nina Davies is the visionary designer behind the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. The Wizard helps thousands of users automatically find pesky problems in their manuscript, saving them valuable time and improving the quality of their work. Nina is most proud of the number of writers who have become published authors with the help of AutoCrit.
Note: How to Write a Book is an affiliate of AutoCrit and may earn a commission if you sign up from the links provided.