Editing Notes: A Tale of Two Editing Apps

Having just read a helpful article on the difference between revising and editing, I can now say that Draft v2.0 of the novel is a full revision, and v2.5 in progress is copy-editing.  I have been examining every sentence, and I’ve been trying out different (free) apps to assist me.

The one I tried and used for my first nine chapters was Hemingway.  This morning is the first time I’ve checked it in several days, so I see now it’s defaulted to what was a beta version when I was using it–and I prefer the original to the beta, so I won’t be using it anymore.  My main peeve with the current version is that it irretrievably destroys the standard-indent paragraph formatting, changing it to line-break style.  And while I’m perfectly happy to use line-break style for online writing, as it’s easy to read, for manuscripts I like my formal indents.  Give them back!  (If I am wrong about the “irretrievable” part, someone kindly tell me how to fix it–but as you’ll see below, I’m pretty certain I’m moving on from Hemingway.  Still, it would be good to know.)

Despite all that, I can still show you what I loved about Hemingway.  Take a peek at an excerpt from the chapter I’m working on now:


I can see all my “errors” clearly, all at once.  (And you all can see visual evidence of my love of long, complex sentences.  I’m trying to cut back, I swear.)

Hemingway has lots of problems, as I discovered:  spotting the passive voice incorrectly was a major one, as was its somewhat arbitrary rules for what constitutes “hard to read” and “very hard to read” sentences.  The simpler-phrase filter kept wanting to change “all of” to “all”…which makes sense sometimes, but not in the phrase “all of it.”  “All it” is gibberish.  And then there are the display errors where multiple lines of text overlap…it’s buggy.

So I learned, like any tool, to use it with caution.  I do love being able to see where my passages are entirely yellow and red, and digging in to break up sentences and make them punchier.  And I didn’t use it to replace a true line-by-line investigation, but to help me “see” what needed work.

And then my tumblr dash exploded with posts about Quoll Writer.

I write in Open Office Writer.  I’ve always used similar programs.  In college it was WordPerfect, anyone remember that?  I preferred it over MS Word at the time because it was easier to insert special characters for my French compositions.  When that stopped being an issue, I switched to Word, and once I stopped having that for free, Open Office.  (Bless you, darling Open Office.)

I’d never considered using a more comprehensive organizational/writing program before.  Oh, sure, I’d heard of Scrivener and a handful of other apps, but I was doing fine with OOW, right?

Until my novel hit 100K and I was scrolling endlessly up and down during the revising process.  “Oh, crap, this isn’t consistent, I need to go back and change something in Chapter 12…now where is it?”  Managing a single, unbroken document that big is tedious.  And the thought of 41 different documents, one for each chapter…a nightmare.  I never went that far.

So Quoll Writer looked tempting.  I downloaded it and immediately fell in love.  Separate chapters collected as one project!  Idea boards, character notes, dialogue notes!  Achievements!

Yes, achievements.  I’m a video game nerd.  Achievements make my heart go fluttery.

And the editing.


(On a side note, I’m not married to that title.  It’s the fourth one I’ve gone through, and I doubt it will last.  Yes, this is preemptive defensiveness.  I’m aware it’s on the clunky side.)

There’s a “Find Problem” option.  The highlighted sentence got flagged for three: over 30 words long, and contains the words “that” and “really.”  I’m running into the “that” problem a lot, and axing them when I can or replacing them with a more contextual pronoun, but in my mind you do sometimes need it for clarity.  Sometimes, it stays.

While you get the problems line-by-line, instead of all at once as in Hemingway (which I do miss), the rules are clearly defined, so it’s easier to interpret them and “fix” the problem.

On top of that, the editing rules are editable!


You can turn them off, either universally or just for the specific project you have open.  You can add rules.  You can modify rules with thresholds–like I could change the length filter to 35 words instead of 30, if I liked.  (I haven’t, but it’s nice to know I could.)

Because I’m in the midst of transferring my novel to QW one chapter at a time, I haven’t had the need to use its other features much, but I’m looking forward to it.  I did start a new project for an idea I’ve had kicking in my head for a few weeks, just jotting down some bare-bones character bios so they’ll be there when (if) I ever flesh out that plot bunny.

Over all, if you’re looking for a free writing/editing app to try, I’d recommend it.  I don’t have any other experiences besides Hemingway to compare it to (which is a slight apples-to-oranges issue, because Hemingway isn’t meant to do much of what QW will); so I don’t know how it stacks up to things like Scrivener.

But it’s free.  Minimalist.  And it lets you edit the editing rules.  I’m just a little in love with it.

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