Editors or Editing Tools? A 10-Point Comparison


by C.K. MacLeod
Editor or editing tools? Sometimes it’s hard to decide. Sometimes it’s not.
Here are few points to consider:

  1. Editing tools are widely available and free or cheap. Editors are widely available, but not free or cheap. If you hire an editor, do not get attached to your first-born or your fur baby.
  2. Editors will point out the mistakes in your writing. This will ruffle your feathers. (Tip: If you want to work with an editor, you need to stop wearing feathers.) Tools will point out the mistakes in your writing. You will be unbothered by this. You can continue to wear your feathers.
  3. Tools don’t always tell the truth. You will need to be discerning. Editors don’t always tell the truth. You should be thankful for that.
  4. Tools will make you do the heavy lifting — they’ll identify writing errors, but they won’t fix them. Editors will find and fix most writing errors. And then, like Rumpelstiltskin, they’ll ask you to hand over your first-born.
  5. Tools won’t roll their eyes when you forget to close quotations 53 times in the first 100 pages of your book. Editors will roll their eyes, and then announce your transgression on Facebook. You will be immortalized in the morning’s virtual water cooler conversation.
  6. Many editors charge by the child. Tools are a one-time fee, for multiple projects, for the cost of a two bags of chips, or a fine pair of designer jeans.
  7. Tools will only find what they’re programmed to find. Editors will only find what they’re programmed to find. Bonus: If you choose an editor who studies style guides, takes courses, and teaches courses, they will find things that tools miss. Decide if that matters to you.
  8. A successful editing tool efficiently finds inconsistencies in your writing. A successful editor efficiently finds inconsistencies in your writing, with (gasp!) the use of editing tools. If you are fond of your first-born, encourage your editor to use editing tools.
  9. Tools will not change anything without your permission. Editors worth their salt will not change anything without your permission. If they do, see # 1.
  10. A good tool is not an editor. A good editor is not a tool.

Image by becca.peterson26

Why Writers Love Scrivener (and Why Editors Will, Too!)

by C.K. MacLeod

Updated March 11, 2017

Planning map


Scrivener has become wildly popular with writers—plotters and pantsers alike—who are working on book-length writing projects. Little know fact: it's a great tool for developmental editors, too.

Scrivener is useful for

  •  planning and writing a novel (especially if you're a "pantser" and you need to do a little reverse planning)
  •  writing and organizing a thesis
  •  planning and writing an online course
  •  planning and writing curriculum
  •  setting and achieving writing targets
  •  writing and organizing blog posts
  •  planning a book marketing strategy
  •  publishing simple, text-only ebooks in mobi and epub formats
  •  developmental editing

Each of the items in the list above involves some planning or organizing. Scrivener is, in fact, the ultimate planning and organizing tool for anyone who works with words.

Scrivener helps you set goals, plan, and organize your writing with

  • virtual note cards
  • a built-in Binder feature that allows you to see each part of your book at a glance
  • symbols and coloured labels 
  • margin notes
  • Project Targets/ word count calculator
  • an Outliner, which can help you see the pacing of your writing
Scrivener Labels
Assign coloured labels to files in Scrivener

Scrivener is for Editors, too!

If you’re a developmental editor who works with writers to develop a writing project, Scrivener can help you (and your writers) to see a book’s structure visually:

Scrivener notecards
Scrivener notecards

And it can allow you to see alternating time structures, how a book is paced, and whether points-of-view are balanced:

Scrivener point-of-view labels

Scrivener isn't the best tool for all kinds of editing (Word is still the best tool for copyediting), but it's definitely worth considering at the developmental editing stage of the writing process.

Scrivener Supports

There’s great support for Scrivener, too. Scrivener comes with a 319-page user manual and a walk-through tutorial.

For those who like self-paced online courses, I highly recommend Joseph Michael’s Learn Scrivener Fast video course.

I've created a free downloadable Scrivener Cheatsheet for some of the more common "moves" that writers want to make in Scrivener when they first begin using it.

Scrivener has a free trial for 30 uses, and it’s less expensive than traditional word processing software. See the Literature & Latte site for details.

It’s fun to think about how tools can make some aspects of writing and editing easier—especially planning and organizing.

Image by Sacha Chua

How to Turn Your Print Book into a Digital File

My grandmother's typewriter: an Underwood Noiseless Portable
My grandmother's typewriter: an Underwood Noiseless Portable

by Carla Douglas

Adapted. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing in August 2014.

OCR—not your grandmother’s typewriter!

You can turn your essays, stories and other documents—stuff you might have lying around in a drawer—into ebooks. You also may have unpublished or previously published books, now out of print, that you want to self-publish as ebooks (be certain you own the rights).

You can do this yourself, but first you need to get this material into a digital format. One way is to re-key the text manually (not really an option if you have a book-length work) or you can use optical character recognition (OCR) software, which converts a scanned document into a digital file.

There are many OCR programs available, ranging in price from free to fairly costly. I chose OCRonline to experiment with. It’s web-based, and your first 5 page conversions are free. After that, they’re 4 cents per page. Simply open an account and log in, then follow the instructions.

1. Scan your document and save it as a pdf. The photo at the top of the page? That’s my grandmother’s typewriter. She was a prolific correspondent, and I’m currently digitizing a collection of her letters. Here’s a snippet of one, dated March 13th, 1944:

Tip: Be sure to scan all pages into a single document, or you’ll be stuck (as I was) with multiple separate files that have to be compiled later.

2. Upload your scanned file.  Browse >> Upload

3. Convert your scanned file to MS Word .doc (no .docx option) >>Process

4. Retrieve your converted file at the link provided.
Here’s what my converted snippet looks like:

That’s it! As you can see, the Word file is littered with debris and some ugly bits, but you’re well on your way to having an editable, searchable file, suitable for formatting as an ebook. So go ahead—open your drawer...

Next: File cleanup.

Photo by Carla Douglas

Overcoming Procrastination with 3 Old-Tech Tools

Coloured felt pens

by C.K. MacLeod

Updated. Orginally posted August 7, 2012 at Beyond Paper Editing.

Will you do almost anything to avoid writing? Take heart. Most writers face this struggle at one time or another. Many of them work at home with abundant distractions. Drab everyday tasks begin to look inviting when there is a blank page to face—there is always a dish to wash, a floor to sweep, or a social media site to get lost in.

Why Do Writers Procrastinate?

Why do procrastination and writing often show up together? I think that every writer—novices and professionals alike—know that writing is hard work. Beginning means that you’re committing to a process that will occupy a reasonable chunk of time and a great deal of effort and discipline. Yet, distracting yourself with seemingly purposeful tasks (yes, that dishwasher does need emptying at some point), only delays the inevitable. So what’s a writer to do?

Make Procrastination Work for You

SARK, author of Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper suggests creating space for procrastination in the writing process. Rather than ignore the need to procrastinate (and then feel guilty by falling prey to it), writers need to find a way a way to make procrastination work for them.

Her tool, humorously named the Micromovement Wheel of Delight is none other than a hand drawn chart—old tech at its best. It enables writers to identify and capture those tasks that will help them ramp up to writing. Here’s what my version of the chart looks like:

SARK's micromovement wheel
SARK's micromovement wheel

Here's how it works:

  1. Identify your writing project. Record it in the middle of the wheel (see the image above).
  2. List five or six tasks, or “micromovements” that relate to your writing project between the spokes of the wheel. This is key. Tasks like taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, or texting a friend do not relate to your writing project. Sharpening a pencil or doing a quick Google search on the writing topic do. Each task must be on topic and should take no more than five minutes.
  3. Pick any task and do it. Micromovements are small. Anyone can commit to a two-minute task. Continue until all the tasks are done. You are now closer to completing the writing project. If you have completed a wheel but you haven’t finished the writing project, create another wheel with six more tasks to complete.

Make it Manageable

SARK’s approach to dealing with procrastination acknowledges the psychology of the writer. Writing is a monumental task, yet every monumental task can be broken down into tiny movements. Writers can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment as they knock off those smaller tasks—all of which are designed to chip away at the bigger task. By thinking in terms of micromovements, you create, well, movement. Movement in the right direction.

You can use SARK’s micromovement wheel for nearly any task that seems too big. If you learn to think in micromovements, you’ll have a valuable tool for conquering procrastination in all areas of life.

So what are the other two old-tech tools? A print copy of Juicy Pens and Thirsty Paper for sumptuous inspiration. And coloured felt pens, of course! Grab those pens and go draw that wheel!

Image by Steven Lilley

Tips and Tools for Staying on Track with Your Writing

by C.K. MacLeod

The emperor has no clothes

Updated. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing.

Writers have a lot to think about: writing, revising, editing, formatting, marketing, platform building, and the list goes on. In all this flurry of activity, it's too easy to remember the task that is most important: writing!

It's becoming more difficult to focus on writing with everything an author has to juggle. Like the emperor with no clothes, writers are in danger of having no books! Here are some tips for staying on track with your writing.

1. Use old tech.

To keep him from being distracted by social media tasks, Bryan Cohen, author of Writer on the Side: How to Write Your Book Around Your 9 to 5 Job uses "old technology" with no Internet connectivity while writing.

He uses an Alphasmart Neo 2—an intelligent keyboard with a tiny e-ink-like screen that only allows for writing. It's less than two pounds, powered by triple-A batteries for hours of power, and can be easily toted into distraction-free dead zones. I use a similar intelligent keyboard: the QuickPad Pro.

Similarly, George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones, has been ribbed for using a "writing computer"— an ancient DOS machine from the 80s loaded with WordStar 4.0. Have you seen the page count for the Game of Thrones series? Who's laughing now?

2. Set limits for online time.

If using old tech is a bit too hardcore for you, consider social media timing tools to help you prevent social media time suck. Rescue Time will keep track of how you spend your time online and furnish you with a data report of your online activities, if you're brave enough to go there. The free browser plug-in Stay Focusd can set time limits for social media or block websites when it's time to get to work.

3. Do your two most important tasks first.

As a writer, one of your two most important daily tasks is writing, right? Tim Ferriss, the author of the Four-Hour Work Week, does his two most important tasks before 11:00 a.m. each day. These tasks do not include checking email.

In fact, Ferriss does his to best to avoid checking and responding to email more than twice a day. Instead, he has an autoresponse message for his email account, indicating when he'll be checking mail, so people know that his response won't be instantaneous. He then batch processes his emails offline using Boomerang for Gmail and in the past, The Email Game. These tools can help you organize email messages by priority and set time limits for processing email.

4. Pare things down.

To determine what will work for book promotion, J.F. Penn, author of the Arkane Thriller series, has tried a wide variety of social media platforms. She often works 11-hour days to fulfil her "authorpreneur" tasks. To carve out more time for writing, Penn has decided to let some of her social media platforms go, and has chosen, instead, to focus on the ones that bring her joy—her blog, The Creative Penn, her podcast, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. This is still a tall order for most of us, but the lesson here is that you can't do it all—even if you've committed to 11-hour days.

5. Be strategic.

If you're not sure how to pare down your social media engagement, Frances Caballo, author of Avoid Social Media Time Suck, suggests focusing on platforms where your readership hangs out. "You want to be where your readers are," she says in an interview with J. F. Penn of the Creative Penn podcast. To find out where readers hang out, see Frances' picks at the Creative Penn website.

You can be strategic about when you use social media sites, as well. For example, according to Pam Dyer, a top-50 social media power influencer at Forbes, Twitter users are more likely to see tweets on weekends between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m., so why not schedule important tweets during these times? Dyer lists popular social media sites with suggested times for using them at the Social Media Today blog.

6. Outsource.

If you've pared things down, become more more strategic, and find you still don't have the time you need to write, take a page from Joel Friedlander's book. Friedlander is the author of the popular self-publishing blog, The Book Designer, and he's everywhere. How does he do it?

Friedlander has hired a virtual assistant, or VA, to help him with time-consuming social media tasks, like organizing guest posts and formatting and posting blog posts. J.F. Penn and Pat Flynn have also hired VAs, and Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen, hosts of the Sell More Books podcast, often make use of Fiverr for photo editing or ebook cover tweaking. Tim Ferris estimates that he saves 10 hours a week on minutia by using Task Rabbit to outsource tasks.

The Indie ethic is a DIY ethic. But DIY doesn't mean DIA—doing it all.

7. Be accountable.

How do you know if you have enough time to write? One of the best ways to find out is to keep track of your daily writing progress. Women's fiction author Jamie Raintree has designed a lovely Excel spreadsheet that can help you keep track of your daily word count. It's free when you subscribe to her email newsletter.

Scrivener users can use Project Targets to set daily word count goals:

Scrivener Project Targets

Well known traditionally published authors produce on average between 250 and 5,000 words a day, and high achieving self-publishing author J.F. Penn will clock in at 2,500 words in a two-hour window of writing. Set your own daily or weekly word-count goals, and if you don't achieve your goals, it might be time to try some of the steps described above.

There's a prevailing theme here, isn't there? Social media, email, and all things Internet, appear to be some of the main barriers to writing. I've managed to priortize my writing, at least for today. But it's after 11:00 and my email beckons...

Image by 세라 박.

How to Use FRedit: A Find and Replace Macro

by C.K. MacLeod

Work horse

Do you use Find and Replace in Word for editing tasks? Want to supercharge your mad Find and Replace skills? Here’s how.

Recently, editor Paul Beverley contacted me to show me how FRedit, a macro that he wrote, can be customized to perform a bunch of useful writing and editing tasks. It’s a find and replace macro, which means that it can take a slew of find and replace tasks that you’d normally do one at a time, and execute them all at once.

If you’ve been nervous about trying a macro, this is your way in. This find and replace macro will allow you to list, in a Word document, all the find and replace tasks you want to do. Run the macro and it will do them for you all at once.

An added bonus: You can keep the list for future writing or editing projects, or you can create customized lists for each project you work on.

Now how does that sound?

Trying FRedit

I gave FRedit a try. I wanted to see if it could identify and highlight words whose meanings writers tend to mix up. It can. In fact, FRedit performed better than the Confusables macro that I posted here. It was able to find words in all their forms. For example, the macro will pick up compliment, complimented, compliments, complimentary, complimenting, etc.

And as it turns out, FRedit can do a host of other things, too. Such as Wildcard searches. You are only limited by your imagination, and your understanding of Word’s Find and Replace and Wildcard codes!

How to Use FRedit

  1. Download the FRedit macro from Archive Publishing.

  2. Add the macro script, or code, to Word’s VBA. If you’re not sure how to do this, this 20-Minute Macro course will get you started.

  3. To use FRedit, you need two documents open:

a. The Word file containing your writing
b. A “script” file that tells FRedit what to do

In my case, my script file contained a list of of commonly confused words.

Confusables script

You can get the Confusables script here. Copy and paste it into a Word document.

4. Run the FRedit macro.

Tip: Have only two Word documents open when you run FRedit: your script file and the document containing your writing.

A Flexible Tool

FRedit is a flexible tool. You can use any script, correctly written, to get FRedit to do something different each time. The instruction file that accompanies the macro offers examples and guidelines for how to make the most of this handy macro.

FRedit is a workhorse, and a boon for Mac users who often don’t have access to automated commercial editing tools. I’m already thinking about other ways to bend FRedit to my will.

Do you use FRedit? I’d love to hear how you use it!

Image by Martin Pettitt

Hemingway Editor: A Proofreading Tool for Writers

Ernest Hemingwayby C.K. MacLeod

Updated September 28, 2016

Proofreading tools are an easy way to help you see and fix potential problem areas in your writing. Recently, I discovered the Hemingway Editor created by Adam and Ben Long. It’s a standalone program that costs $20 US, and you can download it to a PC or a Mac computer. You can also try the free online version. It’s most helpful if your aim is to make your writing clear.

How it Works

The Hemingway Editor highlights common problems that can get in the way of clear writing:

  • Complex words or phrases
  • Extra-long sentences
  • Long sentences
  • Too many adverbs
  • Too many instances of passive voice

It colour codes each potential error type, so you can address them one at a time. You can see an explanation of each error type here.

The app won’t tell you

  • how to fix long sentences (shorten them),
  • what to do with adverbs (delete most of them), or
  • how to handle too many instances of passive voice (rewrite the sentence in the active voice—sometimes), but...

...it will suggest simple words for complex ones.

The Hemingway Editor (and other revision tools like it), will give you something to correct in your first draft, just minutes after you’ve written it. This makes it a terrific tool for on-demand writing with tight deadlines.


Quick Steps

To use the Hemingway Editor, copy your text from your word processor and paste it into the text editor. Click on the Edit view to see areas that may need your attention.

Alternatively, you can write right in the app, in the Write view.


You can make corrections in the Hemingway Editor, and copy and paste your corrected text back into your word processor. Or, you can go back to your original text in your word processor and make changes there.

The newest version of Hemingway (2.0) will now allow you to  add heading and paragraph styles, and if you decide to save the file as a Word doc, the heading and paragraph styles will show up in Word. You can also export your file in markdown.

Note: I use the PC version of the Hemingway Editor, and I’ve found that it works well for articles, newsletters, and blog posts. The design team is working on some improvements, which means it may soon handle longer texts, such as book chapters.

Keep in mind, the Hemingway Editor is a simple text editor with proofreading features. Hyperlinks, bulleted lists, and images will not transfer as-is. You will lose some of the formatting.

The Hemingway Editor is an excellent tool, especially for the price. If you don’t want to use a separate program to revise your writing, and you already use Microsoft Word for editing and proofreading, try some of the revision macros on this blog. They’re free, and so is the 20-Minute macro course that will teach you how to use them.

Image by Thor

Google Docs for Collaborative Writing


by C.K. MacLeod

There are many free tools for writers, and Google Drive is one of my favourite. The Documents part of the suite (Google Docs) is excellent for

  • writing articles and other short pieces
  • real-time collaborative writing and brainstorming (no file conflicts!)
  • sharing your writing with readers
  • storing your writing projects for safe keeping

Style Options

The toolbar contains lots of style options, too. You can insert hyperlinks and pictures, change fonts and font colours and choose from several heading level styles for a professional-looking document.

Google docs toolbar


If you're working on a document with another writer, each of you will be assigned a different cursor colour. This allows you to observe each other's writing contributions in real time.

The Chat feature will allow you to discuss what you're writing about, and the Comments feature allows you to leave feedback in the margins while reviewing a document:

GDocs commentsYou can use the Suggesting feature to make changes to the text. You'll find it when you click on the Pencil icon. It works like Word's track changes, so every suggestion can be accepted or reject.

Pencil icon Gdocs
Click on the Pencil icon to find the Suggesting feature in Google docs

Revisions are documented and stored, so you can go back to an earlier version of your document if you need to.

Document Sharing

It's easy to share documents. You can give someone permission to view and edit a document by sending them an email notification and a link to your document:

GDocs shareYou can share you document on social media, too!

Readers can download a Google document in a variety of file formats—HTML, Word docx, ODT, PDF and more—making document sharing a snap.

Google Docs is free with a gmail account. It's always improving and it's the collaborative writing tool I use most.

Image by Yuko Honda

A Quick Way to Apply Heading Styles in Word

Did you know that you can apply heading styles using keyboard shortcuts?

Doing so is much faster than digging around in menus to find the Styles menu or the Styles Palette. This trick is especially helpful for formatting ebooks. Here's how it works in Word 2010:

Click in the heading you want to apply a style to, or select the heading:

Word keyboard shortcuts for headings

Then choose from the following keystrokes:

Heading 1: Ctrl + Shift + 1
Heading 2: Ctrl + Shift + 2
Heading 3: Ctrl + Shift + 3

Get the idea?

If you're on a Mac, try the Command + Opt key instead of the Ctrl + Shift.