I received an email offer, money off ProwritingAid yesterday. It’s 25% off until today, March 18th, with a code I have been given, MARCHNL18 . I subscribed for a couple of years and thought it might be useful to discuss my experience with it. I was new to creative writing at the time, needing all the help I could get. There were certain things I had been told, but somehow when the creative juices are flowing, they don’t always sink in. I thought before I press publish it may be a good idea to put my first book through this programme I had been recommended.
First lesson – don’t wait until then. By scrambling through the changes it recommended, altering as I went along, I also introduced errors which I did not pick up in my final proofread. I have since done further major edits to unpick those errors – missing words; missing letters; repeated words – how embarrassing and a good job they were found by my beta readers.
Second lesson – we all have favourite words and ways of writing which get repeated. I see this in some books I now read and thing to myself – you should have used ProWritingAid.
- Had, could, would, just, then, still, for – oh my, they were everywhere, littering my prose like cheap confetti. I now stop when I am tempted to write any of those words. Think, is there an alternative or can they be expunged. Usually, they get left out.
- Sticky sentences – it took me a while to understand this term. I recently did some editing of ghost stories and I can now say I get it. Take this example. ‘The next day, she went on the internet and used a search engine to look for local shipwrecks.’ Edited to – ‘In the morning, she googled local shipwrecks from her phone.’ Avoid sticky sentences and tighten your writing.
Third lesson – avoid passive writing. I knew this and yet I still did it. Why? – ‘She was feeling unhappy’ – not only passive, but telling not showing and a weak verb.
Fourth lesson – now the programme won’t point out where you tell not show but it does pick up words where you can deduce that you are telling -words like feel, know, seem, look
- She felt him come closer – the hairs stood out on her neck as he moved towards her.
- She knew he was angry – the expression in his eyes hardened and a scowl formed on his lips.
- He seemed sad – sighs replaced his smile, a wistful, lingering glance as she walked by, not noticing.
- He looked so happy – he skipped along the pavement, chortling with glee.
Fifth lesson – adverbs. Yes it picks these up and words I didn’t even know were adverbs, not just the ly endings. I am not of the opinion you should never use them, but once again, think as you are tempted to put one in. I don’t remember that it picks up over used of adjectives, perhaps it should.
Sixth lesson – repetition. It picked up occasions when I started a sentence with the same word three times in a row and also overuse of certain words as per lesson two.
One final point – you can choose which type of writing it’s assessing. I chose creative but you can choose academic, business and others.
For someone embarking on writing, I think it was an invaluable programme and would fully recommend it.