AutoCrit: A Helpful Tool for Editing Flash Fiction

Wednesday, April 07, 2010
I stumbled across the AutoCrit site today and found it to be a helpful tool for editing your flash fiction stories. The free version allows you to paste a story of under 800 words into a text box, where you have the option of selecting reports on three categories: Overused Words, Repeated Phrases, and Sentence Length Variations. These categories are crucial to analyze when crafting a flash piece.

So, I dug out an old story and pasted it into text box here:

I clicked the "Overused Words" button and clicked "Analyze." The next screen shows a list of typically overused words with red check marks pertaining to your story, as well as suggestions for how many words to remove.

I definitely used "that" too many times--which is a common mistake *that* (delete!) I see a lot in flash fiction, and a bad habit of mine. In most cases, you can safely remove "that"--it doesn't add anything to the sentence--and will help trim your word count.

The AutoCrit said my use of "ly adverbs" was "Excellent," as was my use of "could," "it/there," and "maybe." Other interesting areas are the use of generic descriptions (I got a "Nice one" response), the use of feel/feeling/felt (I got a "Yay"), initial conjunction ("Well done"), and initial ing ("Nice work"). The comments are encouraging and are all wonderful helpers to fix passive voice problems.

Beneath the checklist is your highlighted text with culprits displayed in blue. Drag your cursor over the text and copy-paste it into your MS Word program--you'll notice the blue text copies as well. At least it did with mine.

You can only select one option at a time but you can hit the back button after you've read the results and your text will still be there. Then you can select one of the other options, such as "Repeated Phrases" and "Sentence Length."

Repeated Phrases: This page shows all phrases which repeat within 100 words in highlighted blue text. If you are using a repeated phrase for emphasis it can be very powerful, but remember it should contribute something to the story, so use them carefully. When in doubt, leave it out--especially in flash. It will only eat your word count.

Sentence Length: This page gives you a list of the beginning of each sentence and how many words it contains. It's important to vary your sentence length because similar-length sentences can be dull to read.

The AutoCrit site offers further services to those that subscribe for a fee. I haven't tried their paid services, so I can't offer a review. Their "Members Only" reports include other editing tools such as: Dialogue Tags, First Words, Names and Pronouns, Cliche Finder, Redundancy Finder, Homonym Highlighter, Readability Suite, and Pacing Monitor.

But I found their free online tool to be quite helpful in trimming unnecessary words and a good reminder to really check your story for any issues you might have missed. So if you're preparing to enter the WOW! Women On Writing Flash Fiction Contest, you may want to test your story with this helpful little tool before you hit the send button.

Happy writing!


Donna Volkenannt said...

Sounds like a great resource. I'll check it out.
Donna Volkenannt

Mary Jo said...

This is an awesome tool for any fiction or nonfiction writer. Thanks for sharing!

~Mary Jo aka Writer Inspired

Betsy said...

Wow, that's amazing! I'm rubbish at editing my stories, and most of the time I don't even know what I should or shouldn't edit. Hopefully this will help me realise my bad habits and correct them by myself eventually!
Thank you so much for that x

Unknown said...

This sounds like a great way to show both bad and good habits in my writing. Thank you for introducing me to it!

Kim said...

Definitely checking this one out. Thanks!

Sherri said...

Awesome! I just ran a 600 word flash fiction that I am editing for a contest deadline this week....SO helpful, especially for a newbie like me! Really a great way to learn more about what to edit out. Thanks!

Cher'ley said...

Thank you. That was fun.

I did better than I thought I would, but I'm guilty of using that too often. Two of them could be eliminated, two changed to which and the other one is okay. Also, it bought my attention to a word that really should have been hyphenated and then it wouldn't have shown up as a problem spot.

I'll be using this often.

Hannah said...

ooooh, pretty! I love writerly tools and software. I'm going to check that out. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

there's a very similar app which is totally free for as much text as you want at I just pasted my whole book in and it gave me a chapter by chapter breakdown of all the overused words, repeats, cliches stuff in my book. Awesome!

Cher'ley said...

I will try the one Anonymous recommended. Thanks.

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