When you complete NaNoWriMo and get that winner’s certificate, you unlock many special deals on various software created for writers. I have tried Scrivener and didn’t find it useful for my writing style, but many people swear by it. My head doesn’t work that way.
Three of the many offers NaNoWriMo winners can get and which I am familiar with are:
- 50% off the purchase price of Scrivener and also Scapple, their tool for getting ideas down and making connections between them.
- 60% off a full year of AutoCrit Professional
- 40% off ProWritingAid Premium.
No software can replace knowledge of grammar. An author must have confidence in what they intend to convey and how they wish to say it.
For this reason, editing software is not as useful as we want it to be.
A person with no knowledge of grammar will not benefit from relying on an editing program for advice. There is no way to bypass learning the craft of writing.
I use Grammarly, an editing program for checking my own work. I also use ProWriting Aid. I pay a monthly fee for the professional versions of these two programs. Each one has strengths and weaknesses.
These programs operate on algorithms defined by finite rules.
Not every recommendation is right. However, when the editing program highlights something, I look at the problem sentence carefully. Just knowing that the way I phrased a sentence tripped the program’s algorithms encourages me to look at that passage with a critical eye.
I may not use the program’s suggestion, but something triggered the algorithm. That means my phrasing might need work. I may need to find a better way to get my idea across.
Editing programs will only confuse and mislead you if you don’t understand grammar, sentence construction, paragraph construction, or how to punctuate dialogue.
New writers should invest in the Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation and learn how grammar works.
You may have found that your word processing program has spellcheck and some minor editing assists. Spellcheck is notorious for both helping and hindering you.
Spellcheck doesn’t understand context, so if a word is misused but spelled correctly, it might not alert you to an obvious error.
- There, their, they’re.
- To, too, two.
- Its, it’s
For me, especially in my first draft, some words are like tics. They fall out of my fingers and into my keyboard randomly and out of my voluntary control. I don’t self-edit as I go because I’m just trying to get the story down. The second and third drafts are where I shape my grammar and phrasing.
With each revision, I locate adverbs, descriptors, qualifiers, and “weed words.” I look at the context of the sentence and decide if they will stay or go. Many will go, but some must stay.
An excellent program to help point out when specific passages are passive and need to be “made active” is ProWriting Aid. I use the professional version for my own work. However, they have a free version that will alert you to a few of the most common problems.
These are expensive purchases and for that reason I would recommend trying the free versions first. The main reason for those who don’t understand the basics of grammar to NOT invest in them is this: these programs are unable to see the context of the work they are analyzing.
“The tea was cool and sweet, quenching her thirst.”
Grammarly suggested replacing quenching with quenched.
ProWriting Aid made the same suggestion.
I have no idea why they make that suggestion. You can see how a person blindly following mechanical advice could go wildly astray.
Currently, at this stage in our technology, understanding context is solely a human function.
Because context is so important, I am wary of relying on these editing programs for anything other than alerting you to possible comma and spelling malfunctions.
You might disagree with the program’s suggestions. You, the author, have control and can disregard suggested changes if, as illustrated above, they make no sense. I regularly reject weird recommendations.
Good editing software is not cheap, but for my specific needs it has been a worthwhile investment.
If you do choose to invest in some, use your common sense. Remember, you have the final say when it comes to your work.