We all need to improve our writing craft and working with a professional editor is the best way to do that. But there are ways to improve your writing before you submit to an editor (or an agent or a publisher), and writing software, ProWritingAid, can help you do that.
In this video tutorial, I'll show you how I'm using ProWritingAid and why it beats Grammarly for fiction authors, in particular.
In the video, I go through:
- Why it's worth using an online writing tool as well as professional editors and proofreaders
- Grammar issues, passive writing
- Spelling issues – you can choose the country-specific spelling in settings
- Sentence length, sentence structure, overused words, repeated words, dialogue tags, clichés, and redundancies
- Fixing curly vs straight quotation marks
- Thesaurus and Word Explorer — for word nerds (like me!)
- Integration with Scrivener
- Emails and website copy within Chrome
- ProWritingAid vs Grammarly
Try the free version: www.TheCreativePenn.com/prowritingaid
Get 25% off the premium edition if you use my link ProWritingAid.com/joanna
[Please note, I am an affiliate of both ProWritingAid and Grammarly, which means if you use my link, I will receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. I only recommend tools I personally use and think are great for authors.]
Transcript of the ProWritingAid Tutorial
Hello, Creatives. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com and today I'm talking to you about ProWritingAid, which is an online tool that will help you with your grammar, check your style, editing, and also it's kind of a writing mentor online, which is going to help you become better at your craft.
Why should you even consider an online writing tool when we all use professional editors and proofreaders?
The point is that a professional editor — and I use one with every single book — is there to help you make the book a better product. But if you can fix a whole load of errors yourself and make your writing better before it even gets to the editor, you're going to learn a lot about your own writing and you're also going to get rid of a load of mess so that they can focus on what they're best at, which is making your book the best product they can be.
So I have been using writing tools for a number of years, and I've recently moved to using ProWritingAid for a number of reasons, which I will be outlining and I will hint a little bit upfront — it integrates with Scrivener, which is what I use for writing.
So I'm going to talk to you a bit about it today. I'm also a very happy affiliate of ProWritingAid and you can get 25% off the premium edition if you use my link: ProWritingAid.com/joanna
So, first of all, you can use the software on the desktop online or also on your computer.
So I'm just going to do a demonstration with a scene from the first draft of one of my novels. Now, this is really trusting you because I don't normally show my first draft writing anywhere, but I wanted to give it a go through the software before I have cleaned up my writing.
So you can see here that you can copy and paste. You can also upload a document and that's really good because you can upload your whole book if you want to. For now, I'm just going to copy and paste in a chapter. After the document has been processed, which is really very quick, you can see that there are a number of things you can check with the document.
First of all, you can see these real-time issues and you can click into these to have a look at them. So for example, grammar issues, you can see here. Unsurprisingly, I have a missing comma. Seriously. I don't know how I still get commas wrong. Just doesn't go into my head, which is why this type of thing is really useful.
I would much rather fix these on an edit with software than have my wonderful editor do things like commas when what I really pay her for is making my book better, which is more to do with structure and characters and things like that rather than commas. So there's an example of style issues.
Passive writing is probably the number one issue with most writers.
And I definitely tend to have passive voice when I write my first draft, and then I fix a lot of that in my edits. Now just to be clear, this chapter has not even been through any self-edit. This is in a first draft. I haven't even finished this book yet, so this is very first draft material.
You can see. You know, she had been cleared. Maybe that's okay. So we could ignore that one. But certainly this one here, the rod was made, that is definitely something that I would fix. So, and I might just say the willow bark rod, for example. This is a good way to help you make your writing much tighter, and this works for fiction and nonfiction.
I'm giving you a fiction example, but exactly the same problems with nonfiction a lot of the time.
This is an example where there is a missing space, so I can just click that and it will fix it. You can fix it as you go through. I'll show you within Scrivener in a bit because I love that, but it also works within Microsoft Word and Chrome browser.
There are lots of integrations with ProWritingAid, but I just wanted to show you some of the examples of spelling. There are settings for British English versus US English, Australian English. Canadian English. Yes. It's only English at the moment. This is really useful because although I'm British, I actually use US English for my books because the biggest number of my readers are in the US.
There are lots and lots of different writing tools. I have been using Grammarly for a number of years, but I have found things in ProWritingAid as a bit of a word nerd that I am quite excited about.
So the summary report essentially goes into all of these different things and I'm just going to click on it and then page through to show you.
So a report will be generated and you can essentially page through it looking for things that you need to improve. So you can see here that I'm really good at spelling. I knew that, but there are definitely things I could improve. Obviously, my style there is not a great number and obviously that orange not green and you want them all to be green, so then you can page through and have a look at some other things.
Things like unusual words, which can be interesting, especially if you spell them wrong. Then there is the readability measure, and this is really good because I think also with nonfiction, you can sometimes have just really long sentences that go off into different things that make it difficult to read.
These are all different scales and it does actually tell you, if I scroll down, you can read more about each of these reports and it will explain what it is. So you can see here this article on how to use readability scores will help you understand what each of those things mean. And in these ways, you can improve your writing.
Now overused words are incredibly important because what happens when we write particularly a first draft, and again, I have not even edited this chapter — I keep apologizing, but it really is first draft! — essentially overused words. You can see, hear, feel, feels, feeling, felt. I know that I'm going to have to edit those because the word feeling should generally just not be there, and I should be using better language to describe what they were going through.
So that's interesting that I have overused those words and this is definitely something to watch in your book. Sentence structure is interesting as well. Here, I do have five long sentences. Probably I'll break them up in an edit, but you can see generally my sentence, variety and length are fine.
And what I like about this sentence length is you can really see that I do have variability in my document. This is something that new writers particularly can get wrong, which is to have exactly the same sorts of sentences each time. And it does get boring for the reader because it has no variation in rhythm, whether it's spoken out loud or whether it is read in the head, as such.
I think this sentence length and this variability is really good for when you're writing for audio as well, because you can almost see the rhythm of this text.
Writing style does go into things like adverbs, and I know I use too many, so I know is an issue with me. It really is an issue, and so I will again, normally get rid of things like really in my edits, but this will help me identify where they are.
Then you can go into grammar and spelling and all kinds of detailed information that will help you improve your writing. Dialogue tags are particularly useful with fiction. And again, you can go into the report and it will explain how you can make this better. I think the extra help is really useful because so often these writing tools will tell you that there is a problem, but they don't explain how to fix it.
And what I like about ProWritingAid is that they link to ways that you can actually fix your text. Then there are things like clichés and redundancies, repeated words. For example, I have obviously, again, I've got rise up /rose up, which are repeated words, repeated meanings there. And then in terms of consistency, this is something that's really useful because again, I'm pretty inconsistent with my capitalization as you can see here.
Plus you can see here curly quotation marks and straight quotation marks are again, something that needs to get fixed to make everything consistent there. This is really, really useful with co-writing. I co-write with my mum, or I have done under Penny Appleton for sweet romance and we've had a real issue with her using curly quotation marks and I use straight ones.
And it was such a pain for the proofreader to actually do all of that. Whereas with ProWritingAid, you can just fix them all at once, which is very cool. Essentially, if you are a word nerd, then ProWritingAid has so many things that will be interesting for you. If you click on the more reports area, you can find that there are all kinds of other things you can have a look at.
You can do plagiarism checking as well. Then just to come back into settings. I mentioned nonfiction writing. Obviously the style of writing is important, so you can change your settings to make the software adapt to the style of writing that you probably should have. So when I'm writing a novel, obviously I'm going to choose creative, and then probably when I'm writing my nonfiction, I'm going to choose business.
Another thing I like is this Thesaurus. Essentially you can highlight an area and then it will give you lots of different words. Now I spend a lot of time with a thesaurus when I write fiction, in particular, and I'm always looking up different words. This is really important, obviously, so you have much richer writing, but also so you're not using repeated words, and sometimes you want longer words, sometimes you want shorter words.
So you can see what this does is bring up lots of different options for the words that you have in that section. So the word nightmare, these are some of the other options that you could be using.
I can actually do it straight within the text in order to find other words. For example, if you do identify that you're using repeated words, this can be a way to find other things. There's even a Word Explorer if we come into the menu. You can do the conversion to straight and curly quotes, which is super useful.
Use the Word Explorer and it will help you with even more suggestions for writing
So, if I use the word anger, for example, you get some definitions, but then you also get really interesting suggestions for words with anger in their definitions. These are really interesting and these will give you ideas as you go through. You can also find synonyms. You can even find rhymes if you're doing poetry, for example, anger with fishmonger, which is quite cool.
I really like these colocations, which are essentially adjectives and verbs, nouns, verbs used before and after this word. These just can give you ideas about different words to use and look, let's face it, we are writers, our command of language is part of our craft. And what I find with ProWritingAid is it's more than just fixing grammar.
Yes, there are lots of other tools that fix grammar. As I said, I've used Grammarly for many years, but this goes so much further and that's why it's exciting to me. Look, you can even find quotes from books with different uses of this word. The word Explorer is something that I particularly liked.
We should also go through some of the basics. Yes, it's available for Mac and Windows, both in the desktop edition and also online. These are some of the integrations. You can use it with Chrome and that's really useful for email. I'll show you in a minute. Also, Microsoft Word, Google Docs and Scrivener, which is just very, very cool.
Scrivener integration with ProWritingAid
So I'm going to show you the Scrivener integration because this is the reason I'm moving to ProWritingAid. I've been copying and pasting chapters for years and now I can just use it within the app. So if I open ProWritingAid on my Mac, or you can do this on a PC, you get this screen and what I can do, I can open any of these different documents and actually use ProWritingAid within the document.
So I'm going to pull up one of my Scrivener files. This has Open Scrivener within ProWritingAid, and I can see again, exactly the same report. And in this case, let's just go into spelling. So for example, an unknown word: Borderland is one of my words that is in my Mapwalker books. It is necessary so I can add that to the dictionary and it won't pick it up next time.
I can go into say, a grammar issue, missing comma, and in this case, I can just fix it. So this is saying that readability may be enhanced if I rephrase that now it is a dialogue. It's essentially my choice depending on the thing. So I'm just going to ignore that one.
You can see again, I'm missing a comma. Oh, really? This is so common for me! In this case, I can just add it in and you'll see a comma has been added in there. So essentially I can go through the whole of the book and fix all these things. I can save it and it is done within Scrivener. Now, this is really important for me because I write my books in Scrivener.
I do my first edits in Scrivener, and basically, then export from Scrivener to Word and send that to my editor and then fix, do the edits and that type of thing. What this enables me to do instead of copying and pasting out into other software is I can actually do it within Scrivener.
This is going to save me a lot of time, which is why I'm so happy about it. And again, this works for nonfiction just as well as fiction.
Emails and website copy within Chrome
Other things: the Chrome extension means that while you're doing emails and website copy, for example, it will check as you write and you can fix it.
Here's an example email that I did and it will pick up the issues. This is on my website and because I edit directly into the website, it will help me with issues there as well.
Resources for authors
I also liked ProWritingAid because they make it very clear that they are dedicated to helping writers.
These are some of the free ebooks you can get if you're a premium member and you can see that they care about writing, they can care about author platform, about publishing. They know what authors want, so I'm really happy that they're focusing on authors as a market and not just copywriters, bloggers and things like many of the other writing apps.
Grammarly vs ProWritingAid
So I'm very happy for you to use either. They are both excellent. They both check grammar. They both do typos. They both have excellent free options. So you can try them both out. They both integrate with Chrome and MS Word, but only ProWritingAid works with Scrivener and also with Google Docs, which many people use for co-writing in particular.
ProWritingAid is also better for long-form content. So books for example, as opposed to articles and shorter form content. As I said, I feel that ProWritingAid has really focused on helping authors, in particular, do a better job. There is a lot more tutoring. If you pay attention to all of these reports, it can help you improve your writing significantly.
Plus there are these extra resources for authors. It's also cheaper than Grammarly for the premium option, or remember, you can try both of them for free and see what suits you best.
Try the free version: www.TheCreativePenn.com/prowritingaid
Get 25% off the premium edition if you use my link ProWritingAid.com/joanna
I hope that was useful today in showing you how ProWritingAid could help you with your writing. And as I said at the beginning, it's very important to remember that this is not a replacement for a professional editor. I personally use ProWritingAid to help my draft get into the best shape of its life before I send it to my editor so that she doesn't have to fix the mistakes that I could change on my own.
I also put the documents through just before publication, just before formatting, so that I can make sure everything is completely correct before I upload it. So those are some of the reasons that I use ProWritingAid and I hope you found it useful. So happy writing and I'll see you next time.