Time for the Final Touches!
Here we are at Day 29! If you followed me here all the way from Day 1 when we set up our Editing Notebook in Microsoft OneNote, major kudos to you! If you have completed all (or most!) of the exercises the last 28 days, your novel must be just about squeaky clean! You've looked for plot holes, made your reader care about your characters, firmed up your settings, took the sag out of the middle, removed info dumps, and perfected your first sentence, first paragraph, and first act. You worked down from the biggest issues, to the finer and finer details. All you have left are to take a couple more swipes at final spelling, grammar, and phraseology.
Most writers are familiar with the spellchecking tools that are available within whichever application they are using to write their story. Therefore, I won't go into any further detail except to remind you to do one more spellcheck before you send your baby into the world.
While you are at it, you should also run a grammar check. A grammar checker will find grammatical errors and often make suggestions about how you can fix them. On Day 27 we completed an exercise for rooting out inconsistencies in active or passive voice and past or present tense. While a grammar checker will catch these as well, I think it is worthwhile as a learning experience to do these manually in order to correct any bad habits we may have. After making the same change fifty or a hundred times, we start to be better writers because we catch ourselves in the act and self-correct.
A grammar checker will not only find grammatical errors, but it will make recommendations about how to fix those errors AND it will implement those recommendations based on current trends. It will be worth your while to run your manuscript through a grammar checker.
The application you use to write your story may or may not have a grammar checker, and it may or may not automatically check grammar as you type. It could be the feature is available but turned off by default. Consult with someone in the know about whatever tool you are using if you don't see it checking grammar as you type or when you do a spellcheck. Someone in the know can mean Twitter! Post the question in a tweet and use the hashtags #writingcommunity and the software you are using, like #Word or #Scrivener.
Yesterday, when discussion crutch and filter words, I mentioned that word choice is important. Phraseology is all about word choice since it is a reflection of the characteristics of your writing. It is, in essence, your writing style. It includes word choice, but also diction, vocabulary, and speech patterns. It's how you organize your words and phrases. That means phraseology will be unique to you.
Keeping the definition of phraseology in mind, it makes sense that when you read back aloud what you have written, the narration should sound good to you. Of course, that is subjective, but they are your words and those words carry your intent so they should sound good to you. So, read your story aloud. In fact, do this in two different ways. Have the words read to you while you proofread, and then you read them aloud to yourself. In both cases, you will likely find you want to tweak the language here or there to make it "sound good."
Another element of phraseology is making sure you have written to the age level you intended. Depending on the age of your intended audience, word choice can be very important. Just as you wouldn't want the topics to be too "adult-like" for middle grade or young adult, you also shouldn't want the word selection to be too sophisticated for a young reader.
Grammarly - Consider Grammarly if you are looking for a secondary grammar checking tool. You will not be able to use the software on Internet Explorer, but if you have Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, you can add the plug-in simply by visiting the Grammarly website and following the instructions. The free software offers spellcheck, grammar check, commonly confused words, and improper punctuation. It's easy to use and understand and it allows you to decide if the suggestions are correct or not. If you like the software and envision yourself using it on a regular basis, you might consider purchasing the Premium edition which also offers checking for wordy sentences, punctuation in complex sentences, and plagiarism.
NaturalReader or Microsoft Speak. If you have written your manuscript in Microsoft Word or OneNote, you can use Microsoft's "Speak" tool to have your text read back to you. If you don't have those applications available (although you should have downloaded OneNote on Day 1 of this blog series and could copy and paste your text into it), you could use an online tool to do the reading. I like NaturalReader's free tool which comes with several different male and female voices which can read the text you paste or upload. In either case, the readers aren't perfect. They still have some odd inflections and that machine-read quality to them, but they are getting better and better every day.
If you decide to use a proofreading tool that reads your text aloud, sit back and close your eyes, but keep your hand on your mouse to be ready to stop the reader when it reads something that sounds wrong or which needs to be corrected due to a missing or incorrect word.
Read it out loud. Read your story out loud - while the proofreading applications that read text back to you are becoming less machine-sounding, there is nothing like reading aloud in your own voice. You will be surprised how many things you catch that don't sound the same as they look on page when you read silently.
WordCounter and Hemingway App. Yesterday when we talked about crutch and filter words, we used the application at http://www.wordcounter.net to check word density in order to help us figure out whether we had any words or phrases that we overuse when writing. We can use that same site to check the reading level of our text. When you visit the site and copy your text in to have it analyzed, you will find on the right-hand side, a list of details that are being analyzed. If you don't see the "Reading Level" option, click on the More link and turn the option on. If you have written at a reading level that is not consistent with how you wish to publish, you can use a website such as Hemingway App (http://www.hemingwayapp.com/) which can help you simplify your language to make it more age appropriate for a younger reader.
Exercise: Final Touches Checklist
Final Touches Checklist
Spellcheck (built in)
Grammar Check (built in)
Grammar Check (secondary application - Grammarly)
Reading App (NaturalReader Online - http://www.naturalreader.com/online/)
Double-check reading level (http://www.wordcounter.net)
If needed, revise for reading level (http://www.hemingwayapp.com/)
DOWNLOAD: Final Touches Checklist Worksheet
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Go to Day 30 - Celebrate, Beta Readers and Beyond