Tag Archives: editing


I’ve mentioned Autocrit.com on panels at conventions. It’s a very useful tool that can assist any author when they’re polishing up their manuscript. Even when I’m about to send something off to an editor or getting ready to upload a submission, I usually run it through Autocrit first. It finds many common problems and does a decent first-pass analysis of my work. For example, it flagged the fact that I used “first” too many times in this paragraph.

Autocrit is a paid service, but it will analyze short passages for you. If you subscribe, you get more reports and can upload a full novel. Note that I am not an affiliate, so I get nothing for recommending this service. I liked it so much I picked up a lifetime subscription when they offered one, and I was actually driving to a convention when I pulled over and called it in. Yes, I like it that much.

I pasted an old H.G. Wells short story called “The Inexperienced Ghost” into the chute to run this analysis. The sections below are just a couple of the sections you get. Actually, you get pages and pages of information, depending on how in-depth you wish to delve into the work. You can run through each section and update the text within the website.

Most of the analysis that follows comes from just the “Summary” page.

The opening piece is general statistics. Of course it gives word counts, but it also shows number of uncommon words, number of sentences, and the average word length of the sentences.

Manuscript Statistics

Number of Words 4881
Number of Uncommon Words 1062
Number of Sentences 461
Average Word Length of Sentences 11

The next couple of sections show statistics on your speech tags and adverbs used with them. They also compare it with recent best-selling novels so you can see how you match up.

The sections that follow are very handy for me. It lets me know how many adverbs, passive voice, redundancies, cliches, and generic descriptions are in the work. These sections alone are worth their weight in gold, since I sometimes use clichés (like I just did) when I should have said it better and in my own words. Here we can see that Herbert could have cleaned up his prose a bit.


Total Number of Adverbs 61
Top 3 suddenly 9
really 4
slowly 3

Passive Voice Indicators

Total Number of Passive Voice Indicators 175
Top 3 was 64
had 47
were 16

Showing vs. Telling Indicators

Total Number of Showing vs. Telling Indicators 186
Top 3 it 107
knew 39
see 18

Generic Descriptions

Total Number of Generic Descriptions 27
Top 3 very 11
suddenly 9
really 4


Total Number of Clichés 32
Top 3 the fact is 3
the thing 3
as if 2

Now that I know Herbert should do a bit of rewriting. Most of the time I’m in the same boat. Arrgh…darn clichés.

Continuing on, the analysis shows how the pacing is for the first 50 paragraphs. That should be enough to give you a strong indication if your work has a bunch of dead spots. Herbert didn’t do too bad, in this case.

Finally, the Autocrit summary page will give me an indication of the word and phrase repetition. You’d be surprised how invisible that can be after you’ve been banging away on a keyboard for weeks, reading the same thing over and over.

There are more reports I can use to polish the manuscript. One I always check is the combination report under “Compare to Fiction”. The “personal words” highlighter finds the phrases and overused words that you tend to blindly sneak into the manuscript. It assists me when it comes to repeating the same thing over and over, especially since this sentence was flagged as having a redundant structure and a repetitive phrase.

Remember, you can try it out for free. You won’t get all of the reports, but it will give you a good idea of what you’ll get. Will it ever replace a good human editor? Nope. It does take care of the common junk that editors have to flag, and that gives them more time to find the real issues hidden in your book or story.

Website: http://www.AutoCrit.com



About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled veteran, a speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

The Monster Mash: Writing Sex Scenes, Part Two

A guest post by Joshua Essoe.

In part one we talked about if you should go all the way, how to decide, creating tension in all the right places, and what position you should take. Tonally speaking.

Today, let’s get into some specifics of when you’re trying to verb the adjective noun.

Your characters should inform everything that takes place between them. Who are they? Are they gregarious and shameless? Well then, yeah, a character like that might just throw their clothes off, give strip teases for the thrill of it, and view kisses as fun but meaningless.

Is your character shy? Well that character is very unlikely to just throw their clothes off or have sex in a changing room. Maybe they want the light turned off first, maybe they kiss tentatively, and slowly, maybe they need their partner to undress first.

And let’s not forget about laying down complications, hiking up tension, and stroking inner conflict. Maybe your character feigns confidence and it gets tested terribly when things heat up. Maybe they’re worried about some perceived physical defect. Maybe the character is married or committed to someone else–what kind of inner conflict would that engender? How would that other relationship inform their choices in the romance with someone else? Are they in love with two people at once?

Let’s get deeper into the question of how far you should push.

Just like any other scene, you focus on what you want your readers to focus on. And that is what your specific character would be focused on. What does your viewpoint character find attractive and sexy about the character they are with? Both physically and in their personality, their movements, their smell, the sounds they make. Maybe that shameless character is turned on by having everything articulated. That character definitely likes the dirty dirty. Maybe that shy character is focused on the eyes and minute facial expressions. Use all the senses. What is going to make it interesting and unique are the specific details you use. The more specific and narrow you make your focus, the sexier the scene will be. And yes, sometimes that means you’ll be writing about what parts go where and what that feels like.

The way you inform your readers of that, what words you use, will depend on your characters, the tone of the story, and how you’ve set it up. There should always be some words on your Do Not Fly list. Let me suggest a few:

  • Turgid, adj
  • Purple, adj/noun
  • Fleshy, adj
  • Wrinkled, verb (If this is an adjective, then please don’t send me this MS.)
  • Pert, adj
  • Moist, adj

These are not sexy words. Even penis. Penis is not a sexy word. They accurately describe something, sure, but analytically relating what a thing is, or what a thing does, does not sexy make. Likewise, be careful with the placement of your sexy words because it will be hard, err, difficult to keep from using them over and over. Keep track of those little buggers or everything is going to end up wet, or hard . . . or turgid.

But, like everything else in writing, it is a careful balancing act. Just like any other action scene, don’t go overboard with your descriptions or you’ll bog down your prose, and kill your pacing and interest. When I say focus in and use specific details I don’t mean that you should describe every single movement or action taking place. You can leave some things to your readers’ imaginations. They’ll fill in the blanks.

Be aware of the tropes. There are a lot out there, but here are some common ones:

  1. The woman or man is unattainably attractive.
  2. She has an apparent willingness to have sex with the male protagonist, usually as a means of manipulating him.
  3. The female character is duplicitous, and either secretly evil or forced to act that way for some reason.
  4. Rape. I can’t tell you how tired women, in particular, are of reading rape used as a tool to garner sympathy, or stoke conflict. But that is a separate article.

One final note. It’s worth talking about the actual, physical writing of these kinds of scenes. I heartily recommend your local Starbucks if you want the dude with the Beats by Dre, the man in the pinstriped shirt, and the cute, spikey-haired girl sneaking stares as your face flushes, your breath quickens, and you start to sweat. Just please keep your hands on your keyboard at all times.

Or maybe you should plan to write these things in private. And then you can let your hands do whatever they gotta do.

Wherever you chose to write your dive in the dark, don’t stop, once you start. Going halfway into the scene, then pulling out for a break kills your own tension and takes you out of the flow. It would be like texting with your buddy while you’re bed-pressing with your partner. Just like in real life you want the process to go smoothly without interruption. Write the whole scene in one ecstatic burst. Do not go back to read what you’ve written. Do not count how many times you’ve used the words “moist,” and “pert.” It doesn’t matter, don’t break your rhythm.

That means do not stop to edit yourself! The scene might suck, but that does not matter, just like any first draft, you’ll have your chance to go back and massage it into splendor later.

If you’ve never written a sex scene, and maybe even if you have, you may feel embarrassed, or even scared enough that you can only manage a tag to yourself, “put the sex stuff here.” For those of you that this applies to, take heart. You don’t have to view writing sex and romance as writing a sex scene or writing erotica. You’re just writing a scene. That’s it. You’ll do great. Let your characters guide you, listen to them, just as you would with any other scene, and write.

Joshua EssoeAbout Joshua Essoe:

Joshua Essoe is a full-time, freelance editor. He’s done work for best-seller David Farland, including the multi-award winning novel, Nightingale; Dean Lorey, lead writer of Arrested Development; best-seller, James Artimus Owen; and numerous Writers of the Future authors and winners, as well as many top-notch independents. He is currently the copy editor at Urban Fantasy Magazine.

Together with tie-in writer Jordan Ellinger, indie success-story, Michael J. Sullivan, and traditionally published author and NY Times best-seller, Debbie Viguie, he records the weekly writing podcast Hide and Create

When not editing . . . ha ha, a joke. He was a 2014 finalist in the Writers of the Future contest, and lives with his wife, and three horrible cats near UCLA.

Not Another Edit!

EditsMost non-writers, and many new writers, have no idea that finishing that manuscript and typing END is anything but the end.  I know when I started writing, I couldn’t see beyond reaching that final scene.  Of course, that first novel was a 300,000 word monstrosity that took me over two years to complete, but the principle is universal.

The first draft is not the final draft.

That truth is even more daunting when we consider how few wannabe writers actually reach the end of their first draft.  Of those who do, many lack the determination to see the project to its full completion.

It’s easy to assume the tragic artiste pose and proclaim in an awful imitation of an accent from some European country, “This is my Art and the muse must be honored.  The words were given to me like this for a reason.”

Not if you want to sell it and actually have someone read it.

This becomes the dividing line between those who like dabbling in writing as an enjoyable hobby and those who are serious about becoming a Writer as a career.

Some first drafts are pretty good, but pretty good isn’t enough.  Every successful author I know recognizes they will need to make several editing passes through each novel before it’s ready.  One of the reasons we’re encouraged to write what we love is because if we don’t LOVE our stories enough to work through them at least half a dozen times, we’re going to HATE them before the process is complete.

Many new authors don’t understand this and unfortunately in today’s ebook world, it’s all too easy to complete that first draft and throw the book right up on Amazon.

I for one have read some of those stories.  After wading through the piles of novels that make me cringe when I look at the cover or read the first page, I’ve selected one that looked like it had real promise.  Many times those ebooks turn out to be pretty decent, maybe have a great concept and tons of potential, but where the author wasn’t patient enough to really finish the work.

I find it tragic when I complete an ebook like that.  When I think, “You know, that could have been a really good book.  But it was only about 90% finished and needed more polishing.”

What a waste.

Not only of my time, but of the author’s time.  They worked so hard bringing that novel to life, only to not put in the effort to get it that last 10%.  It’s like Frankenstein stitching together the perfect monster only to not bother raising it up on the platform during the lightning storm.  That last 10% is what infuses the story with it’s real life.

That’s one of my fears:  that my novels won’t be ready.

I cringe when I think back to my first monstrous novel.  With how little I knew about the industry, about editing, I was convinced it was a great work and totally ready to go.  Had the ebook revolution already been underway, I probably would have self-published it.

I would have destroyed that story.

I’m glad I didn’t have that option and that the dozens of rejection letters finally clued me in that there was something missing.  I’ve since thrown that novel away and rebuilt it from the ground up.  The resulting story is ten times better and is one of the eight books I’m preparing for publication in my upcoming “Eight Books in Eight Months” publishing blitz.

Before I pull the trigger on those novels though, I’ve dedicated the time to rewrites, I’ve gathered honest feedback from beta readers, and I’ve worked with professional editors (including Joshua Essoe and Evan Braun) to make sure they’re really ready.

Even so, I still have to wonder, are they really?

This time I feel a lot more justified in saying, “Yes.”

The Patience of Writing an Onion

Writing a good onion, I mean story, takes time and I don’t just mean the time to think and type the first draft. Becoming and being a writer is an evolution, a process, and we need to be patient with ourselves as we learn the craft and apply it. But what does being patient mean and how can we apply it in a meaningful way? Here are three areas where I’ve learned to apply patience:

Creating the story
One day, I heard one writer critique a story. “Sheila is a patient writer,” he said. I was dumbfounded. What did he mean? I read Sheila’s piece and then looked more carefully at the author’s I liked. Slowly, I figure it out and my writing improved immensely.

Patience in your writing means taking your time to explain things where and when they need to be explained. For example, a story which starts with a lot of back story tells of an impatient writer. Knowing when to sprinkle in the details and saving some of them for later takes patience. It also means taking the time to explain things clearly when the opportunity presents. That can be with setting, character description, with action or dialogue. If you are clearly grounded, then the reader will be as well. Take time developing that scene. Show the situation, the feelings, and focus on the important points and explain them as clearly as needed. Don’t rush it unless there’s a good reason for doing so. If you over-write, you can edit it down later. If you are patient with characters you will make them memorable. If you are patient with your story, you will ground your readers and hold their interest.

Learning new skills
You can’t learn everything from a book, a workshop, a conference or a course. The secret, I’ve learned, is to take one thing that stuck with you and apply it to your story, scene or character. That one thing is usually an aha! moment and because of that it means you’ve become aware of something you never realized before. It’s another layer in writing the perfect onion. Apply that new understanding to your work and suddenly it’s transformed in ways you couldn’t have imagined. The truth is that how-to books are long and cumbersome and workshops are intensive because they try to cover enough points so that everyone will get something from it. So, take one thing and apply it.

Deciding which hat not to wear
The first draft can never be perfect – you’ve heard this before but what does it really mean? If you strive for a perfect first draft, your story will never be written and it’s an impossible feat. It’s impossible to wear both the creative hat and the editor’s hats. Yes, plural hat for the editors.

There are three editorial hats: conceptual where the larger elements of the story such as plot and structure are examined; line by line where every sentence and word are examined for clarity, word choice and content; and copy editing for grammar, spelling and punctuation. Then there’s the creative hat. Wearing four hats? Suddenly that sounds silly, doesn’t it?

Your first draft can be augmented by some planning (outlining) and your current writing skills. As you’ll write, you’ll learn more up skills along the way which makes new works cleaner and more cohesive. But that first draft will never be a perfect finished work. Every successful writer knows that. Don’t believe me? Check out their acknowledgements pages. First readers, proof readers, editors – they’re all thanked because they’re all there for a reason. Creativity needs its own hat to weave unexpected twists and unfetter your imagination. The weight of four hats will give you a headache and ultimately, writer’s block. So be patient. Wear your creative hat and come up with an exciting, moving story. The wear each editorial hat in turn. As you wear each one, that’s a good time to apply new skills or insights about the craft. A trick is to have cheat sheets with points or questions for each of the editors.

Patience can best be described as creating an onion rather than peeling it back. Layer upon layer must be built before the story is completed to our satisfaction. So perhaps the hat analogy doesn’t really work. The creative and editing processes are about layering the story to add density to the concept, the plot, to character, to our voice and mastery of the craft. An onion grows from a small seed and layer by layer with watering and patience, it forms a solid bulb and so too grows a story.