Monday, March 28, 2011

Buff and Polish

Quick, hand me that rag and tin of Silvo. It’s time to buff and polish my manuscript until I need sunglasses to gaze upon my work.

I’m not talking about the revision process where great swathes of words are deleted or moved, plot lines bent, or characters eliminated and assimilated. All that heavy lifting is already done before the buff-and-polish step.

I’ve been asked exactly how I do that final edit. Is there something out there to help a writer? Personally, I have two favorite processes that I find invaluable to achieve that blinding shine.

Autocrit Editing Wizard

In the Autocrit Editing Wizard you copy and paste a chunk of text into the designated space and click on the “Analyze my text” button.

The Wizard returns a number of reports to the screen; two of which I rely on. The Overused Words report pick out commonly abused words (it, that, feel, was) and word types (initial “ing” words, initial conjunctions, “ly” words, generic descriptions). It suggests how many occurrences to remove in order to meet standard readability protocols. The Repeated Words & Phrases report highlights your unique problems (door, pasta, pain in the neck). The Combination Report shows both the above-mentioned reports at the same time.

Try a sample 400 words at

Text-to-Speech feature in MS Word

Many people recommend you read your work aloud to identify awkward phrasing, missing and incorrect words, and places where you just scratch your head and wonder what you were thinking.

Instead of wearing out your vocal chords and embarrassing the family when you get to the sexy bits, try Text-to-speech (TTS) where your computer reads your text for you.

For MS users, it’s built into Word 2010. For Word 2003/2007 you can download the DAISY add-in to convert your document to speech-ready text. Instructions for all versions can be found at Microsoft Speak.

I did a quick search for Mac users and found Apple Speakable Items.

When I’m using either of my polishing techniques, I size the computer windows to fit side-by-side on the screen. In one window, I have a copy of my manuscript open and ready to edit. In the other, my selected polishing application. I jump from one to the other, going through my manuscript, buffing, polishing, laughing and groaning.

What are your favorite to to achieve that shine?


Dawn Marie Hamilron said...

I'll have to try out some of the software you mention, Joan. Thanks for sharing. :)

Sheila Tenold said...

I, too, use autocrit and agree its a good final editing tool. Still, I do a last full print and final read as my final step. Those extra pesky words such as: the, of xxx, etc. pop out on the written page.

I'll check on Microsoft Speak.

Thanks, Joan, for the helpfuil post!

Josie said...

I love autocrit! I also use it for final polishing of my manuscript. I also have a reader type program, which "reads" my manuscript to me. It's also really good.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Very interesting tips for the final edit. I have used the Autocrit before, but now will have to give consideration to using it again. I have three almost ready to go stories I am polishing right now.

Mallory Snow said...

These are great suggestions! I have also heard of reading my manuscript out loud but I have to admit, I feel too embarrassed to actually do it--even in my empty house! Lol! TTS is perfect!

Thank you so much for posting this! I'm bookmarking it so I can come back to it if--I mean when--I get to this point in my manuscript. ;)

Madeline Smyth said...

I love the Text-to-Speech function in Microsoft, and I highly recommend it to every author who hasn't yet given it a try. If the reader reads the sentences to me the way I hear them in my mind, I know I've written the story the way I want readers to hear it in their minds.

morgan said...

These are all wonderful suggestions. I was wondering how to get a hold of Autocrit. Thanks.

Clarissa Southwick said...

Great suggestions. I have no method. That's why I need to try these out;0

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