Updated: Jul 17
UPDATE: SmartEdit has been updated since this post. And while the interface has changed slightly, and some great new features have been added, like proximity highlighting for word and phrase repetition, this blog post will still show you how to use the software.
I am a proponent of using an editor to review your manuscript. Having a set of human eyes on your work will give you valuable feedback. You are often too close to your writing to see mistakes. Whether it be content flow or character development, we need fresh eyes to give us guidance and correction.
However, you can’t give a first or even a second draft to an editor. They will hand your manuscript back and tell you to clean it up. At a minimum you should go through your book, three or four times. When you write your first draft, your sole purpose is to get the story on paper. You are going to have a shit ton of mistakes. Your characters aren’t going to be fully flushed out nor are your scenes.
Having an editor will help you with that. But how do you get your manuscript ready for the editor? Well, this is where SmartEdit comes in handy.
When you open your book, you are going to run SmartEdit.
This is what you will see. Over on the right …there are 16 checks that the software ran through. The results show how many adverbs you have in your story, clichés, or repeated words. You can also put in words you want it to find in the monitored words list. Here I put all the telling words that I need to remove and show the reader instead. (If you haven’t read Marcy Kennedy’s Showing vs Telling in Fiction, you need to.)
On the left, of the diagram is the word list and how many times you used each word.
In the above screenshot, I have highlighted the word immediately. In the adjacent column, the sentence the word is used in is highlighted. My document is in the center of the box. That is my actual working manuscript. In gray, you see that same sentence highlighted in the body of the work.
Because SmartEdit highlights the word in question within your manuscript, this gives you the opportunity to see how the word is used in its entire context. Not all adverbs are evil. There are times when you will find you need to use one. By reviewing its usage in the context of the work, you can better edit. You may find you need to rewrite your sentence without that word, or rearrange the placement of the sentence altogether.
As you work through the list of results, you are making content edits that would’ve required you to read the manuscript, hoping to catch everything. This way phrases and words are pulled out, allowing you to make informed decisions on your story.
You can save your work so if you must leave the editing session, the work you have already finished is changed and saved. When you come back, you just rerun the software and start back up.
Here’s the deal, by the time you go through each of the lists, you have more than likely rewritten your first draft so that it is more robust in its descriptions, you have changed words to show more than tell, and you have gotten rid of unnecessary, redundant words.
Now you read your manuscript. Check for cohesiveness, run it through a spell/grammar checker (I use Grammarly). If, after you read it and check for plot holes, adding in new dialogue or new scenes as needed, you may want to rerun SmartEdit (this time it will be far less intensive) and you should be very close to sending it to your editor.
Writing more and more books, blog posts, and short stories improve your writing. However, I truly believe that this software will help you write a better first draft. I find myself subconsciously begin not to use the words I search for in SmartEdit. This ultimately makes my follow up edits much more manageable.
Remember, you still need the human eyes of an editor. They will see things that no software can point out.
I am a user of the SmartEdit software. I have not been asked or paid to endorse this software.
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I write crime fiction horror, thriller, and paranormal novels. My time in the Coast Guard and my degree in Forensic Chemistry helps me create fantastic stories. If I'm not writing, I am binge watching Netflix and probably drinking whiskey.