Using Autocrit to combat combat fatigue

IF YOU DO YOUR OWN EDITING, BE MERCILESS

Despite the recommendations of every editor on the planet, some of us do our own*.

Editing’s no different from any of the other tasks a self-publisher tackles:

  • You are not going to do it perfectly
  • It is a skill – and you are not born with it
  • Learning has many steps
  • There are books which will teach you (or you can take a class)
  • It takes time to do it well
  • It is not inexpensive – if you count your time
  • The professionals started somewhere
  • The results are there for everyone to see
  • No matter what you do, someone will criticize you
  • There are objective standards – but not everyone agrees what they are
  • There is great satisfaction in doing it yourself

Why do your own editing?

Because, in the long run, everything you learn makes you a better writer. Because you can. Because it is always available, on your own time schedule, at your own price (but don’t forget that the time you spend editing might be better spent writing). Because you can’t afford what a good editor costs, and a bad one is useless.

In my case, because I am incapable of interacting with someone else about my own work. Call it a feature – or a bug.

How to have an editing program assist you

After I have almost everything written, polished, listened to, and in what I consider final form, I run it through AutoCrit – and all of the COUNTING it does for me:

  • Duplicate words.
  • Overused words.
  • Two-, three-, and four-word phrases repeated (ouch – unless deliberate).
  • Unusual words.
  • Cliches.
  • Generic words.
  • My own personal word list.
  • Adverbs.

Each and every one of these flagged items gets put through a wringer: Context. Intent. The possibility of synonyms, and a consideration of nuance. Number of repetitions. Whether the repetition is by accident or design.

In other words, everything that has bitten me before.

What I don’t let it ‘help’ me with

Anything else.

Why? Because I don’t trust its judgment on ‘passive voice,’ or ‘subject verb agreement,’ or ‘tense.’ Or ‘readability.’

I have a set, but complex, style. Autocrit doesn’t see italics, for example, but I signal to the reader that something is a direct thought by changing to first person and putting the text in italics. So if you read:

There is no way I’m telling him that.

you’ll know it’s a more intense thought, in those exact words, than general internal monologue:

She wasn’t going to tell him that.

It’s too complicated for an automatic program.

But the counting alone is an amazing help for me

When and where I need it.

This is my reason for having a lifetime membership – my brain is tired more than lazy all the time due to chronic illness and disability, so I let it serve up the most convenient word WHEN WRITING. But I’m not going to let first words stand – not without a raze-to-the-ground fight.

Because my readers deserve the best I can provide on the LANGUAGE side of the writing.

Self-editing with a program is a tool

It takes a fair amount of time per scene, but I think of it as the best investment of that time I can make, because the final product is improved in so many ways. I look for strong verbs instead of verb + adverb combinations, more precise nouns instead of common nouns, and also places where I can reinforce a motif or thread I want to keep.

And I don’t have to count or do the time-consuming searches because Autocrit is merciless.

Last tip

After the scene is polished through this process, I put it through several of the steps one final time – because I have had the experience of working on synonyms and nuance, and finding out that to reduce the count of one way of saying things, I have increased the count of another!

*Adapted from an online comment – you may have seen some of this material before.

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Do you use an editing program to improve your own writing?

How?

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18 thoughts on “Using Autocrit to combat combat fatigue

  1. Widdershins

    I enjoy the editing process … I tend to print out scenes for final run-throughs … as Meeks (acflory) mentioned, reading it on a different platform changes how the eye sees things.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      My brain is in such bad shape that I have to ‘print’ a clean copy to edit on after about every four edits.

      By that I mean that I fix four things pointed out by Autocrit, store my corrected Scrivener file, and copy the scene again to paste into AC for the next set of counts. Paper would take a whole tree per scene.

      Liked by 1 person

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      It helps me. Even my shortest scenes are long – and by the time I’ve got them doing what I want them to do, I’ve been through them far more times than is possible to maintain distance during. I’m sick of my own words.

      At that point, if I didn’t have something mechanical to point (see what I just did there – I’m leaving it to show how my brain works) out that I’ve used a four-word phrase three times (extreme example), I might not be able to catch it myself.

      It is an editor with no judgment. Autocrit has plenty of judgmental sections – I use NONE of them. Just the numbers, please.

      I NEED the counting. I know my flaws. And I can fix the problems dispassionately.

      You are an entirely different writer – and use what works for you.

      Liked by 1 person

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    2. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Also, I make these posts because I firmly believe there are other writers out there whose brains work like mine – I don’t remember finding any when I was learning, so I’m correcting that.

      Of course, they’d have to find me. Hence the thought of compiling some of these into a book with the right title.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. acflory

    I learned a HUGE amount from my first, and only, editor. These days I can’t afford a good one so I do my own, but for that vital, final pair of eyes I have a reciprocal arrangement with a very good scifi writer friend. We ‘beta’ each other’s work, and I think we do a pretty good job. 🙂

    On the self editing side, I don’t use software for any part of the process, but I do have some tricks that work for me. I constantly read my work out loud. More than anything else, /hearing/ the words spoken catches long, rambling, overly complex sentences. It also helps with the…musicality of the writing.

    I am not a lyrical writer in the conventional sense, but I do have a strong sense of the rhythm, the flow of the words. Thus, for example, in one sentence the word ‘start’ may be the best choice while in another it has to be ‘begin’.

    Another trick is to read the story from start to finish on a different device or medium – e.g. on a Kindle or printed out [expensive]. Any change away from the expected allows my brain to see what I’ve written rather than what I wish I’d written. 🙂

    I know a lot of people hate the editing part of the process, but I rather enjoy it.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I do all those things, too. With a damaged brain, you need all the help you can get.

      But I’ve added so many steps and so many checklists over the years that I’m comfortable with my extremely-low error rate. I put the hours in so the reader experience of my desired readers – who WILL notice the flaws – is smooth and doesn’t yank them out of the flow.

      I believe we need to stand up for quality, as it is a constant complaint against SPAs.

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. acflory

        Like any new territory, self publishing covers a very broad spectrum and includes everyone from first time Nanowrimo ‘winners’ to sausage factory writers who churn something out /once a month!/ to more old school writers like us.
        Quality doesn’t necessarily correlate with age, but being taught good grammar, punctuation etc etc at school does make a world of difference to the final product…and our ability to self-edit successfully.

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        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          It’s all learnable – if you care. Reading a lot of good books helps, if not with the details of spelling, then with the flow and the art.

          I put my apprenticeship in early, and it has stood me in good stead, because now I either read or write – most of the time I have energy for only one in a day. I hope I still enjoy reading when I’m no longer capable of writing!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. acflory

          I’ve been a reader since I was eight, but whilst I knew what good writing was, being able to create it myself took almost 13 years of conscious effort. Tech writing and fiction could not be more different.
          My one huge fear is that my eyesight will decamp one day. Can’t imagine a world without reading.

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        3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Learning how to do it to the standards set by my reading the good stuff was the hard part.

          I think I should create a checklist for newbies. It would include such things as where to go learn to write a fight scene, and who teaches you how to write deep third person pov.

          Writing is easier in general once you know you have the skills – and have put in the hours to hone them. Each fight scene, for example, is still completely new, but I also know some general things which make it easier.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. acflory

          ‘Learning how to do it to the standards set by my reading the good stuff was the hard part.’
          Oh boy, truer words never spoken!
          And a list of resources never goes astray. My go-to for fight scenes is Bruce Lee. 🙂 I have the full set of his movies /and/ his book on fighting technique. The book is amazing with pictures every step of the way.
          I’ve often wished that I could have a martial artist on standby though. 😉

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      1. acflory

        I think a good beta is worth their weight in gold, but I couldn’t do it as the story progresses. Not as a pantster. I’d be afraid their input would influence where the story /will/ go. Can’t have that.

        Liked by 1 person

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