Michael P. O'Hara – Killing Time

Killing_Time_Book

Grammarly – How I love to hate the word.

Grammarly – How I love to hate the word.

As a first-time novelist, I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. Such is the education process. You try, you fail, you learn from your mistakes, and you try again, but this time all the wiser. If I had to list the three most significant errors I have made, the list would look like this:

  1. Too many starts and stops. I found the story took a different path than the simple vision I had in mind. I could describe the original plot in five bullets. However, as the story progressed, I got creative and imaginative. In the beginning, I wondered how I would ever write 70,000 words, and ended up with 148,000. The time to write got longer with breaks in-between. It became a struggle to keep the continuity in check. I needed to spend more time on the upfront outline and stick to it.
  2. Proofreading and Editing. Wow, I could write a book on this topic. Many articles say write, write, write, and clean it all up later. I did that. Cleanup was a mess. My writing was less like an English Major and more casual storytelling. Only that story was 147,000 words long. I made some assumptions that my book would be cleaner and require fewer edits. I was wrong. I printed a copy and proceeded to read it and mark it up. A lot of markups. Printing it was a mistake. When I finished marking up the text, I then made the edits online. The process was tedious and mind-numbing. When I finished that process, I figured it was in pretty good shape. So, I looked for a second opinion.

    The standard proofreader charges around $.03 a word. At that price, my novel would have costs a whopping $4,400 to proofread. I went bargain hunting and found someone with excellent credentials, a professional, that would do it for $500. That isn’t $.03 a word, that’s nine words per $.01. She took two months to get it back to me, and to her credit, she marked the document up with quite a few corrections. To her detriment, she missed more than just a few. I reviewed the edits one-by-one and finally was ready. Not so fast.

  3. Despite my earlier no-no, I did it again. Thinking I had the final proof. I printed another copy, and guess what? I found more things to correct. Why did I pay a proofreader that missed things that needed fixing? I ditched the printed copy and read the word document line by line. It was much easier, but somehow, I was finding things that many eyes had seen and missed. After that. Now it’s done. Off to load it and get ready to market my book. Oops. Hold on, again.

I loaded the book, ready to launch, previewed it, got proofs, and wait, more things to fix? How can this be? This thing has been read a million times and still more stuff wrong? When does it end?

Enter Grammarly. I toyed with the idea of using Grammarly when it first crossed my radar. At the end of the process, when my books were loaded, I figured I would test Grammarly. Let this smart grammar app tell me how all this hard work paid off. I use a Mac, and unfortunately, Grammarly doesn’t have a word plug-in for it. I had to use the native app and import the document. I tried, it failed. It seems there is a 100,000 character maximum (characters counting spaces), but they are working to expand this limitation. Yikes, I have 850,000 characters (with spaces). What the heck, I loaded 100,00 characters to test it out. The native app didn’t keep the formatting, but I had two Microsoft Word versions anyway to maintain. It wasn’t optimal, but it wasn’t the end of the world either.

Here’s where I tell you what I did right. Grammarly was the BEST investment of $12 I have ever made. I loaded my partial document, it did its magic, analyzing and computing, then spits out a score and an assessment of what I fed it. It gave me a rating in the high 80’s, not bad. It also found dozens of “critical” errors and about a hundred more other errors. All that on just 35 pages of text.

As I looked through what it found, I was impressed. The software does things MS Word does not do. I checked my document in Word, but Grammarly isn’t Word on steroids, it’s a whole different animal. Because Grammarly analyzes the entire document upfront and not line by line like a proofreader, it knows a lot about your writing and style. It catches things like overusing words nearby. For example, the word “plane.” I used it in sentences that were in close proximity, Grammarly suggested I change one to “aircraft.” It found many instances like that but also found more grammar and spelling errors, suggested rephrasing some sentences, and caught things many of us missed. It also pointed out a nasty habit, using the words “just” and “really” way too much. Something I overlooked in the many reads of the document.

Here is an example of how the tool goes above and beyond. “To me perfect,” I meant to say “to be perfect.” No doubt, a typo. Word missed it because it is not a spelling error. Grammarly caught it. It’s not 100% perfect. I passed on several of its suggestion. Usually, because it might not have interpreted the context of the sentence, or if it was the dialogue between characters, I wanted the natural speaking tone. All in all, I finally the process with Grammarly, I had a high degree of confidence that the work was a clear, crisp, concise, and accurate as I could get. Sure, someone will find something that was missed, but it will be few and far between.

A lesson for the next one. Use Grammarly early and often! If you’re curious, Grammarly gave this a 98.