A couple of months ago I submitted a first chapter and synopsis for a national novel-writing competition. I polished that chapter to a high shine. The synopsis, I admit, might have had less of a patina, but I sent the two off thinking they were at least grammatically correct.
Somehow I got shortlisted. That was when I read the synopsis through again so that when I got the call to say I’d won* I could recall the plot. Imagine my horror when, at the end of the first paragraph, I read, “The catch is she’ll should go as his ‘wife‘”
Head in hands time or what?
Unfortunately, I do this all the time. I think my story is perfect, I send it off and next day spot all sorts of howlers. How? You’d think I was semi-literate.
So, I have discovered the world of online ‘editors’. My latest short story was not released to editors until the whole thing had been checked over by Prowriting Aid. This is a free online tool which allows you to check your work for things like grammatical errors, style issues, repetitions and so on. If you pay you get more tools (and get to upload larger texts and don’t have to put 2000 word stories through in 500 word chunks).
I was just looking for bloopers, but I got a whole lot more. In fact, thanks to various features, I effortlessly cut out 30 words and was able to expand the ending so that it was stronger. I wasn’t expecting that.
I hadn’t realised, for example, how often I used the continuous tense in its various guises. So I tend to use ‘I was going to have to’ instead of a simple ‘I could/had to’.
Not all the suggestions are sensible. In fact some of them are downright ludicrous. But you are in control and decide what to accept. I was so impressed with the reduction in word count today, however, I’m thinking of upgrading.
There are other programmes out there which do the same thing. But if you are one of those writers who cannot for the life of you see your own appalling errors, I think it’s worth thinking about using one of them.
*This call has not come