AutoCrit is an easy to use, automated, online substantive editing tool for fiction of any length, be it flash fiction or an epic novel. It can be used at any stage of the writing process — from the first draft to the last — to help identify common weaknesses in your writing and any areas that may need your attention. And it’s awesome!
The aspects of your writing that AutoCrit examines relate to sentence craft, not grammar — it isn’t a copyediting program. It doesn’t flag misspelled words and punctuation mistakes.
When you upload your text, it generates instant reports on your story’s pacing, dialog, word choice, repetition, strength of writing (overuse of adverbs, passive voice, showing vs telling, cliches, redundancies, and filler words), and a comparison of your work to successful fiction.
When it locates potential problems, it lists them in the sidebar and highlights them in the text in the main window. It doesn’t make changes, or recommend any specific changes to make, it just suggests the number of any given problem to remove. It allows you to make changes to your text while you are in AutoCrit and to export the edited text to you computer, if you like.
Because To Thee is This World Given has circular structure, where the first and last chapters, second and second to last chapters, third and third to last chapters, and so on, are mirrors of each other, I needed to be able to evaluate each pair of chapters side by side, so printing the reports out and making the changes in the manuscript by hand worked best for me.
I’ve posted a sample of one of the reports from the 3rd draft of To Thee is This World Given here, so that you can see a real world example (the changes made to the 3rd draft with the help of AutoCrit became the 4th draft, which was the first draft sent to a human editor).
This sample report illustrates why you still need a human editor — the section evaluated was all dialog. AutoCrit can’t distinguish between dialog and narration, and since people tend to speak in the passive voice using a lot of filler words and vague pronouns, dialog will often be “red flagged,” even if it is okay.
There are three 12 month subscription plans available: for $60, you can evaluate up to 1,000 words at a time; for $96, you can evaluate up to 8,000 words at a time; and for $144 you can evaluate an unlimited number of words at a time. You can use any level repeatedly over the duration of the subscription, so while there are limits on the number of words you can upload at any one time with the first two plans, over the course of the year all three programs allow you upload an unlimited number of words. You can try it for free here.
I chose to go with the $60 / 1,000 word option, both because I was skeptical whether the program would be worth it and because I wasn’t sure how unwieldy the longer reports would be. The service so greatly exceeded my expectations that it’s hard to put into words how satisfied I’ve been with it. AutoCrit is the best $60 I have ever spent.
One final plus — AutoCrit can help you gauge a prospective human editor’s competency. In the future, I plan on requiring potential editors to provide a sample edit of around 1,000 words that I can compare to an AutoCritted sample.
Wendy Van Camp on her blog, No Wasted Ink, also reviewed AutoCrit and provides a nice comparison of it to a few other automated editing services.
You might also like my proofreader, Chereese.
For an account of my experiences with Kirkus Editorial services, go here.