I feel like a need a t-shirt that reads:
"I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because orange jumpsuits aren't quite my style."
Really, though. I am starting to feel like I've been gifted with a personal puppy-dog of an editor who trails me around and makes helpful suggestions to my work. More on this further in the post. Aren't you curious? ;)
An essential point in the process for any writer, whether you are going independent or traditional with your publishing, is the process of Revision & Self-Editing. Many times you can get ultra-dedicated beta readers to help you with the editing process, and many suggest that you actually hire a professional editor. I have not done that yet (I don't have it in my budget to hire for things I can do myself by taking care.) but I think it would be amazing to be able to! Here, I shall take out my little soapbox and stand on it and flap my fingers like a flight attendant, asking you to check on the right for my friend Rachelle Rea, and on the left for my friend Amber Stokes who are both available to meet all your editing needs! Aren't I such a good chum? Anyway, I have benefited first-hand from Rachelle's expertise and know Amber to be a thorough, precise person so I can vouch for their goodness as editors. But when it comes to do-it-yourself editing/revision, I thought I'd tell you some of my favorite books/tools to use:
First up is James Scott Bell's Revision & Self-Editing. (Appropriately named, yes?) I realize I have mentioned this book at least once (if not 999 times), but anything this marked-up and spine-cracked is obviously worth mentioning again. I am anxious to read Mr. Bell's Plot & Structure someday, but this book is perfect for the writer who wants to have their hands on a book that covers the bases of Dialog, Setting, Pacing, Characterization, Tension, Points of View, and all the other major categories in telling a good story. This book assumes you have a working knowledge of writing and the writing-system so it really is best for revision/self-editing (nawwwww.) but as such I can't think of a better book to recommend. I like being able to flip open to a familiar section in a familiar book and be able to read again exactly the same section I read three months ago; to me, owning a book like this is way more helpful than just Googling my issues.
When I was visiting my older brother in Purcellville this year, I had the chance to hang out at the Patrick Henry College coffee-shop several mornings. Directly across the great hall from the coffee-shop is a little bookstore. I rambled in once or twice, feeling quite horrible that I didn't really have money for all the things I was looking at and wishing I wasn't the only patron in the store, but finally I purchased Eats, Shoots, & Leaves by Lynn Truss, having heard much about it. While I didn't find it to be quite as much The Elements of Style as I expected, it was probably better for being deeper. The book is humorous, dedicated, and has the distinct honor of introducing me to the eloquent semi-colon: a mark to which I now owe much debt. If you want a better handle on the various punctuation marks and their proper and improper uses, this book is a great one!
Quite recently (i.e. last week) Grammarly was brought to my attention and no sooner had a begun a free trial, than I realized that this is a pretty awesome program. See, it's like having a personal secretary. It's like having an English teacher sitting there suggesting changes to your manuscript with complete instructions on what went wrong and how to fix it. According to Wikipedia:
Grammarly is a writing-enhancement platform developed by Grammarly, Inc., and launched in 2009. Grammarly's proofreading and plagiarism-detection capabilities check for a writer's adherence to more than 250 grammar rules
See? It's pretty awesome and exceptionally clever and fast. I am not quite certain if the free version allows you this privilege (I am using my free trial of the real-deal), but you can plug in a whole chapter of your novel and it will search it for mistakes, categorize your mistakes, walk you through them, and suggest changes. In addition to all this, you can also adjust the settings so it will edit your text as a general, business, academic, technical, creative, or casual project. (And the specifics of your critique will adjust to suit!) You should definitely check out Grammarly; the rates are quite reasonable and a year's subscription to the program will probably cost you no more than a one-time editor...which means you can use it on more than one novel, if you're fast! :D Of course, Grammarly suggests you hire a real proof-reader, as an electronic set of eyes will often miss things a human would see. Quite sensible. The site gives you a free week trial so go sign up and try it out. So far it is pretty awesome. They have free tools too (i.e. you can plug in a sentence and it will tell you if it is grammatically correct or not.) so it's worth checking out.
Well, I have oodles to do. Only 18 days till Fly Away Home is available for purchase! <3 I shall leave you all to play with Grammarly and try to get a grade of 100 out of 100 on your first try. (It's a little addicting.) Toodles and happy writing to you all!