Category Archives: Somebody Has To Say It

Editing Software: Pros and Cons

Editing Software

As those of you who read this blog are well aware, I am an avid proponent of writers using editors. Real editors, flesh and blood people, with qualifications and experience in the publishing industry, who can review and edit your work with a human touch and exercise discretion in the way they apply the writing ‘rules’, such as they are, to your work. Editing software is not a replacement for a human editor. 

But that is not to say it doesn’t have its uses, as long as it is used appropriately.

I recently subscribed to the AutoCrit editing wizard, so I’ve had reason to become acquainted with the advantages of the software, and the places where it falls down – and it’s the places where it falls down that mean you still need an editor afterwards. I regard this software as a tool for use during my last set of revisions before the WIP goes to my editor. 

So what is the software good for? I recently did a workshop on the editing process which suggested using extensive checklists for each aspect of the editing process e.g, setting, characterisation, sentence structure, word use etc. I find this a cumbersome process. I can’t possibly remember to look for everything in one checklist on one pass through my manuscript, never mind everything on all the checklists. If I make one pass for each item, I’d be re-reading my 100,000 word WIP forever. 

This approach may be feasible when reviewing a ten page legal document for compliance with a dozen requirements. I don’t find it helpful for editing a 100,000 word fiction novel for dozens of requirements, many of which likely occur on nearly every page. 
I don’t know about 5 minutes… it’s a bit time-consuming!

Even when I do focus on one requirement, such as overuse of words like was, were, there, is, that etc., I miss some. I know I miss some. I know because I find some of them, but not all, on my next pass, and I sit there wondering how I missed them. 

So the CritMe software is helpful in finding some of (but not all) of these issues. It can’t find characterisation problems, plot holes, or setting problems, but it does:

  • Generate a list of overused and redundant words, like was, were, it, there, that, hear, heard, knew, know etc. and give you an indication of how many of each should be removed;
  • Identify use of clichés – and boy was I surprised to realise how many there were;
  • Identify sentence length to help you find where you’ve fallen into a rhythm that might hypnotise your reader to sleep;
  • Identify repetitious use of pronouns to start sentences so you can mix up your sentence openings;
  • Find repeated phrases – this is useful since most authors have a favourite phrase they knowingly repeat, and this can help you find them, even if the instances of repetition are quite far apart;
  • Find instances of repeated words close together – I was surprised to see I’d repeated the same word in sentences or paragraphs and not noticed;
  • Identify sentences starting with conjunctions or ‘ing’ words;
  • Identify overuse of adverbs.
This helps me to fix some of those problems before it goes to the editor. It won’t fix all of these kinds of problems, and there are other problems it won’t help with at all, but it’s a useful tool when I’m trying to weed out these issues.  

However, there are some drawbacks to the software:

  • It can’t distinguish between dialogue and narration, so it will identify words as overused or inappropriate, when they may be completely natural and fine in a dialogue context;
  • It generates a pacing report, but doesn’t explain, only marks the paragraphs it considers has a problem. I have no idea what to do with this information (such as it is) as I can’t identify the specific issue. This one I’ll leave to my editor;
  • It doesn’t distinguish between unintentional repetition and deliberate repetition to create more impact;
  • It doesn’t suggest alternatives, where an editor often will;
  • It applies rules rigidly, and can’t assess the actual impact on a human reader – only the likely impact based on its rules, which isn’t always accurate.

So while I would recommend this kind of software as a tool to help you in your final revisions, to help you weed out some of these problems, I would strongly urge you not to consider this a replacement for your editor. It’s not. It can’t exercise the discretion and judgement of your editor, and it can’t offer the advice of your editor. It’s a tool only; a kind of complicated checklist to help your limited human eye spot patterns and problems you might otherwise not discern in your own work. 

By all means, make good use of editing software; but make sure it’s good use, and use with caution. 

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter.

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Club Fantasci Reviews The Night Circus

Club Fantasci Reviews The Night Circus
Club Fantasci had its first meeting ever 12 hours ago. As soon it’s available, the link to the video of the Google+ Hangout will be available on our website and Facebook page for everyone who missed viewing the live Hangout. 

In the meantime, check out my review of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern here on Club Fantasci’s website – you’ll also find reviews by co-hosts Dionne Lister and David Lowry

Feel free to contribute to the discussions about The Night Circus starting on our Goodreads page, or start your own if there’s something about the book you want to discuss! If you want to comment on more than one of the co-hosts’ reviews, it may be easier to start a discussion thread on Goodreads instead.

The date for the next meeting is yet to be confirmed, but will be at the end of September, and September’s Book of the Month is The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks.

If you missed it, check out my review of The First Confessor.

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter.

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The Idiot’s Guide to the Pregnancy From Hell

Pregnancy From Hell

A few days ago I posted this – Having Children: 50 Reasons Not To!

For some time, I’d wanted to talk about the nightmare that was my pregnancy, but I was unsure how to go about it. I didn’t really want to describe the horrific experience in details – not least because I didn’t care to re-examine it that closely as I am about to embark on round 2. The other reasons were because it’s not a story I usually share with women who intend to, but have not yet had, children, due to its horrific nature.

No joke…
When my friend shared a post with me, a tongue in cheek reasons not to have children, and I joked I could find 50 reasons before pregnancy even ended, I thought I had the answer – I could do my own slightly light-hearted, slightly serious list. The list included some obviously funny items, and some far more serious ones. 

Many people took the list in the way it was intended – light-heartedly highlighting the fact that pregnancy is not as glowingly glamorous as some books would have us believe, that for some of us, mere inconveniences pale by comparison, and it is, indeed, a cruel, hard slog, and comes with some serious, sometimes life-threatening, and sometimes life-changing, side-effects. 

One person, however, apparently taking the title literally, declared the post ‘idiotic’. For those who don’t know, blog titles serve two purposes – to elicit interest, and for SEO. For these reasons, they can’t always be taken at face value, and sometimes have only a tenuous connection to the post. 

I confess I found this declaration distressing – my pregnancy was the most horrific experience of my life. For those of you who read my guest post for @RachelintheOC, you know I survived an emotionally torturous divorce from my first husband, who suffered from multiple personalities, so to say my pregnancy topped that is, well, saying something! 

This person stated to me that ‘none of those reasons is sufficient to not have children’. To clarify – I wasn’t suggesting any one of them was enough to deter me. To be clear – I had all these symptoms. Some of them are mere inconveniences – except when lumped on top of the deadly 1-2 combo of symphisis pubis dysfunction and pregnancy related carpal tunnel syndrome. Then they become extra straws loaded on the camel’s back after that final straw that already broke it’s back. It’s amazing how distressing it can be that one can’t wear one’s favourite heels when one is already borderline pre-natal depression. It might seem silly to the balanced mind – indeed it seems silly now – but at the time it wasn’t. I even made my husband take our wedding photos down because I ‘didn’t know that woman’ in them.

Secondly, this person stated she wouldn’t give up her child for anything. I’m not suggesting I would give up my daughter – because what is the only thing worse than suffering through the pregnancy from hell for a child?

Suffering through the pregnancy from hell – for nothing.

That may sound insensitive, but I say that in all emotional seriousness. My mental state was so bad towards the end of my pregnancy that I was afraid the baby would be stillborn or suffer some other deadly complication. I had suffered through so much, endured the unendurable because there was no alternative, and was at incredibly high risk of pre-natal depression, and therefore also post-nataldepression, that the idea was insufferable. I also suffered from a condition that meant I had a lot of amniotic fluid – so while books were telling me I should feel the baby move at every specified interval, I could go days without feeling the baby move. No wonder I was anxious. If it had happened, I don’t know I would have had the strength to try again. 

What my pregnancy did do, though, was make my husband and I seriously reconsider whether we wanted anymore children. My husband wanted 3, maybe 4, children – until about halfway through my pregnancy when he revised down to 1. It is no exaggeration to say my pregnancy put so much strain on my marriage that divorce was not outside the realms of possibility. My first pregnancy was horrific – how could we survive a second one – knowing what was coming?

You can say ‘every pregnancy is different’, but the reality is, some pregnancy conditions, once you have them once, are more likely to recur the second time. Symphisis pubis dysfunction (SPD) is one – my OB informed me I would almost certainly get it again, and earlier. The more pregnancies I have, the greater the probability the problems will become permanent. I might as well take this opportunity to announce I am pregnant – I’m 11 weeks pregnant, due 22ndMarch, and I already have early symptoms of SPD. I didn’t have this condition until 18 weeks last time, and this morning I felt the first touch of despair as I contemplated the next 29 weeks ahead of me.

You probably don’t know what SPD is or what it means in real terms, so I will explain now, in more detail, the crippling, debilitating nature of my pregnancy. If you are a childless woman planning to have children in the future, you might like to stop reading now. If you are a childless woman never intending to have children, you might like to keep reading – there’s probably something in here you can use as vindication to the people who question your decision!

Sufferers of SPD experience pain in the lower back, hips, groin, lower abdomen, and legs. The severity of the pain can range from mild discomfort to extreme and prolonged suffering, and I was at the extreme and prolonged end of this scale. It becomes difficult to climb stairs because of the severity of the pain – it’s not pain you can push through. The body responds defensively, and either recoils from the pain, or the hips just collapse under the pressure. Either way, you’re likely to fall, and once you start falling, you can’t recover, because the hips can’t respond. Our house was only accessible by stairs and some days I couldn’t leave the house if my husband wasn’t there to help me. SPD sufferers also have pain when carrying out weight bearing activities (think about that in the context of pregnancy…), difficulties carrying out everyday activities, and difficulties standing. In a nutshell, it hurts to stand, sit, lie and walk. It hurts a lot.

She looks like her back sure hurts…
Now think about how you get out of bed – you tend to roll, pushing with one leg. Forget. It. If you have SPD, attempting this will leave you sobbing in a heap. For a while, I used my hands to drag myself out of bed. Since I was sleeping with 5 pillows – one between the knees, one under the belly, one under my head, and two behind my back – to keep my pelvis neutral, this was a somewhat difficult exercise. Sure hubby would help, but I couldn’t wake him up every 2.5 hours to do so. Because I would sleep 1.5 hours, wake with a numb hip and needing the toilet. It was then a 1 hour exercise to get up, go to the toilet, rearrange the pillows so I could turn over, get back in bed, and fall back asleep. I kid you not.

The SPD was bad enough, but then I developed pregnancy-related carpal tunnel. Essentially I had excessive fluid retention (my total weight increased by 50% of my pre-pregnancy weight), including in my arms, which put pressure on my carpal tunnel nerve, producing carpal tunnel syndrome. This creates numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers, sometimes pain, and general weakness. I couldn’t feel my thumb or forefinger, and I had persistent pain in my last two fingers. I lacked strength – I couldn’t even cut meat, turn a doorknob, or carry a glass of water one handed. Or, you guessed it, haul myself out of bed using my hands. I no longer recall how I did get out of bed. Sometimes I didn’t; I was stuck there until my husband could help me.  

I worked through my entire pregnancy. I didn’t have a choice. I am the primary breadwinner for my family. If I didn’t work, we’d have nowhere to live. It’s crippling enough for our finances that I must take 6 months off work following the birth of the baby; there’s no way I could contemplate stopping work early. Quite apart from that, by the time I did go on maternity leave, 3 weeks before my due date, I was in such bad shape, physically, that literally all I could do was watch TV – and work. Thanks to my unorthodox typing style, typing was the one thing that made my hands feel better (although the mouse was a bitch). I couldn’t read, because the fixed position of holding a book open caused my hands to cramp and seize painfully. I could write (by typing) but didn’t because of my near-depression. 

By the last quarter of my pregnancy, it is almost fair to say if I wasn’t shouting and angry, I was crying. For every second of every minute of every hour of every day for at least 6 months I was in severe to extreme pain and discomfort from which there was no relief. 

So that’s my pregnancy, summarised. There is more, of course – reflux, and preeclampsia, and suspected deep vein thrombosis, and anything else I listed in the last post (and probably more I’ve forgotten) but those issues merely added misery on top of an impossibly high pile of misery.

Unless you’ve suffered through a pregnancy like mine, you have no idea what I suffered. The exceptions are if you watched a very close loved one suffer it (a wife, a daughter), or if you fell pregnant after fertility treatments, because that is its own brand of physical and emotional hell, or perhaps if you are a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy. That may sound dramatic, but in all seriousness, the only person I met during my last pregnancy who could relate to how I felt was a chemotherapy patient. That should be some indication of just how debilitating the pregnancy was. 

The people who watched me soldier through that pregnancy often said ‘I don’t know how you do it’ and the short answer was ‘Because I have no choice’. Quite apart from the fact that I would never have aborted a baby for any of the reasons listed in my last post, I was well past the time when that was a choice anyway.  

Those same people are now saying to me ‘I can’t believe you are doing it again, you are so brave’.

Well, there’s always another possibility.

I may just be stupid.

Not so stupid that I’ll be doing this a third time. 

If you missed it, check out my post on the mythical origins of werewolves.

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter.

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Ultimate Summer Giveaway: $225 PayPal Cash, iPod Touch, & More–2 Winners!

 Welcome to the Ultimate Summer Giveaway! Like a Bump on a Blog and our wonderful sponsors have teamed up to bring you some amazing prizes for 2 lucky winners. $225 PayPal Cash is the grand prize awarded to the first winner.
Win $225 Paypal cash and other awesome prizes!

The second winner will win a brand new iPod touch, a $10 Amazon Gift Card, and a 4-pack of artistic blank greeting cards.
Win an iPod Touch!
Win a $10 Amazon Gift Card

Win 4 Blank handpainted cards (2 fairy snails and 2 steampunk snails
Before we get to the Rafflecopter entry form, I’d like to thank our individual sponsors for their generous contributions:

A special thanks to amazing author Toby Neal. Check out her amazing Lei Crime book series, Torch Ginger, Blood Orchids, and Building an Author Platform that can Launch Anything: A Social Media Mini-Book.

Toby Neal’s Torch Ginger
Special thanks to RachelintheOc. Check out her bestselling snarky, witty, humorous books, The Mancode: Exposed and A Walk in the Snark.

Our other gracious sponsors include Intricate Knot, Dad Blunders-Life as I know it, and the The World 4 Realz. Check out their websites and blogs, because they are all pretty fantastic.

Now on to the giveaway entry form. You must complete ALL steps to be considered for these awesome prizes. Entries will be checked and those who only do part of the steps will be disqualified. Sorry to be blunt, but a lot of time and care has gone into delivering the best possible Ultimate Summer Giveaway to wonderful fans and readers. Thank you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to every entrant, and thank you for participating!


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Read the last post here: Top 5 Haunted Places in Chicago

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*Syndicated with permission from Like A Bump On A Blog

POV Rules: To Break or Not To Break

POV Rules
A little while ago, I did a post on POV (point of view) on my other blog, Flight of the Dragon, which was fairly well received. As a result of that post, Laura Howard has asked me to do a guest post on her blog.

You can find my guest post, POV: Playing by the Rules, here. It expands on my original post by considering what a rule is and why it is important, touching on the most important POV rules, and then discussing when – and how – it might be appropriate to break the rules.

Please do stop by and comment!