Revising a book can be an overwhelming experience. There are numerous products and resources on the internet that claim to help with the revision and self-editing process, but deciding what is worth spending your money on can be a tough decision. For today’s blog post, I’m here to provide you with some of The Writer Community’s favorite resources (both paid and free) to help you with self-editing and revising your manuscript.*
“When you write a story, you are telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are NOT the story… Once you know what the story is and get right, as right as you can… it belongs to anyone who wants to read it, or criticise it.” - Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
You may have read our recent guest blog post, “How to Work with an Editor” by Isobelle Lans. In this article, the author discusses the ins and outs of working with a professional editor, when to reach out to an editor, the types of editing that writers should be aware of, and more. I recommend reading through that post in conjunction with this one if you are at the stage in your writing process where you are thinking about moving from writing to editing. I also suggest reading “How to Self Edit your Work” by Raelynn Fry. There you will find a self-editing checklist to help you on this journey. (BTW - That is your first free resource!)
Now that you’ve gone and downloaded your first free resource, let’s talk about some of my personal favorite editing softwares. I have gone through the revision and self-editing process four times with my books, and each time, I find that I learn something new about my process. Therefore, I want to start off by saying that not everything listed in this article will work for you. In fact, there might be a program that works better for your lifestyle out there that we haven’t even heard of yet. If that is the case, I encourage you to leave a comment on the post with your own editing resources so that other authors can benefit from your knowledge too.
In my opinion, the software I’m about to talk about are fantastic for both early revisions and later revisions, though. So, I hope they will help you.
Grammarly is an editing software available via the Grammarly website, as a browser extension, or as an app you can download directly to your computer desktop. It will analyze your writing, highlighting grammatical mistakes, and it will point out areas of your writing that it believes could use improvement. The software is user-friendly and there is a free and paid version, which offer different levels of reports.
Grammarly works extremely well for checking grammar, spelling, and punctuation. So if you are looking for a program that focuses solely on that, this program might work well for you. I would recommend giving the free version a try and then deciding if the Premium package is worth the cost.
ProWritingAid offers grammar and style checking combined with more in-depth reports that will help you strengthen your manuscript. These reports offer more than just grammar and spelling. They will point out style, readability, whether or not sentences are too “sticky”, word choice, and more.
Like Grammarly, ProWritingAid is fairly user-friendly. You can use your web browser, their desktop app, or even one of their multiple integrations, which work with Microsoft Word, Open Office, Scrivener, and can be used on Mac or PC.
However, you are paying more for these enhanced features, so this program may not be for everyone. I would recommend trying the free trial before committing to the cost if this is something you’re looking to use.
The Hemingway App is another editing software available for writers. However, I will start this by saying that although there may be an appeal to this app being free, this is not as reliable of an option for writers who are working on full-length manuscripts.
This app assesses readability and complexity of your writing. It also will point out grammar, but not as accurately as Grammarly or ProWritingAid in my experience. One thing that this app does well is help the writer tighten specific sentences they may be finding too wordy.
Although this program isn’t specifically designed for editing, it has many features that will help you in your self-editing journey! For example, you can keep your manuscript organized into folders, which could help you sort through revisions, deleted scenes, and more. You also have the “corkboard” view, which will allow you to see synopsis of each scene. In these synopsis, you can make notes for what you need to do to each scene or chapter for your revision process. You can also have a place in the same document for notes, research, and character profiles, which I find extremely helpful during the editing process.
Scapple is another program that you might be used to seeing during the “drafting” phase of your process. It is a digital way to “mind map” your book, after all! But did you know you could also use it for editing? My fellow co-founder of The Writer Community, Raelynn Fry, uses the mind mapping method to keep track of her plot points during the editing process! I personally have not tried this method yet, but now that she’s given me the idea, I might have to check it out. Scapple is a program you can use if you’re not wanting to have paper and pens everywhere. It will allow you to lay out your plot points, your set ups, your pay-offs, and your character arcs, to make sure they connect properly.
As you might have guessed, Plottr is especially good if you are a plotter! This program allows you to visualize your plot digitally, which makes it much easier to spot plot holes. During the revision process, Plottr can be a useful tool because you will be able to see exactly which points you’ve missed. This will save you time in the long run, and honestly, even a writer who flys by the seat of their pants would be able to use this tool when editing their manuscript. Considering many discovery writers (pantsers) never outline to begin with, this tool can be used in editing to see where your story ended up going after all.
Additional tools I like to keep in my toolbox:
Multi-colored sticky notes
Multi-colored pens (seriously, you can never have too many colors when it comes to editing. I try to stay clear of just using a “red pen”)
Notebooks and/or a series bible
Whiteboard or chalkboard
Again, there are many resources out there for editing. This is just one small list for you to examine and incorporate as you figure out what works best for you. I hope that if find something that really works for you, you will share it with the community. Whether that means leaving a comment on this blog or posting about it on Instagram, we grow better together. Also, if you’re looking for more editing advice, you can tune into my new podcast in collaboration with Raelynn Fry, Editing Tipsies, which offers quick self-editing tips you can use today to make your writing the best it can be.
* The Writer Community is not affiliated with any of the products mentioned in this article.
Meet Skye Horn
Skye Horn is an American fantasy romance author and freelance editor. As a co-founder of The Writer Community, Skye works to inspire other writers to follow their dreams and share their stories, no matter what. She is obsessed with magic, myth, and epic romances.
Her best-selling debut series, Kingdoms of Faerie, is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.