Writing Resources — Drafting (Part One)

Before reading the below, check out my first entry on this topic: Writing Resources — Pre-drafting

Okay, your manuscript outline is in your hands, and you’re ready to begin the wonderfully tortuous process of writing your first book!  So you write a sentence.  Then that sentence becomes ten sentences.  Before you know it, a chapter is finished!

But is it really finished?  I mean, you’ve read it several times, and it seems to read well…yet how can you be sure?  This question is especially relevant for writers like me, who did not obtain an MFA.  For example, there may be significant mechanical issues with your writing that are a cinch to correct, if you do so early.  And luckily, there tools that will help you identify significant problems with your writing.



I would say I present this recommendation with a grain of salt, but a “grain” is far too insubstantial.  Let’s just say you should approach the “Share Your Work” section of Absolute Write with a boulder of salt.

Here is the problem with SYW, and AW in general—there is no guarantee that the person critiquing your work knows what he or she is talking about.  Often, these inexperienced writers cling to certain clichés they’ve learned, such as “don’t use –ly words!”  And unfortunately, the criticisms can be overly harsh.  For instance, I shared a section of FATE’S PAST on the forum, and one poster told me it read “like a first draft.”  I had just finished wiping away my tears when, two weeks later, a publisher offered me a contract.

With all that in mind, brilliance can be gleamed from SYW if you approach it in an educated way with thick skin.  Namely, many professional writers post on AW and are willing to help the aspiring masses.  And oddly, the experienced writers seem to know how to balance positive with the negative.

It is often easy to figure out who you should really listen to as they will have high post counts and their signature blocks may contain links to their published works; other times, however, the author is a bit more subtle.  But hang out in AW enough, and you’ll learn the who’s who.

A few mechanical notes: AW will not let you post on SYW until you have posted fifty times; also, they have blocked people from SYW who signed up for AW and rushed through their first fifty posts to reach SYW.  I’d suggest allowing the posts to come naturally—sign up for an AW account, post an introductory message in the New Members section, say “hello” to new posters, and respond to a few posts in the Novels sub-forum; before you know it, you’ll have sailed past your fifth post, and you’ll have a better understanding of the AW world and those who inhabit it.



I’m all about free tools that help improve your writing, and Pro Writing Aid is one of the best.  As I said before, I do not have an academic background in writing, so I embrace any resource that may help me identify issues I’m not seeing.  I can proofread a manuscript a million times, but if I’m unfamiliar with a certain editing rule, all that proofreading will be for naught.

And that’s where Pro Writing Aid comes in.  First, go to this website.  Then sign-up for a free account.  Once you’re registered, you are able to post sections of your writing into the text box, and after clicking the “Improve My Writing” button, the software will give you an editing breakdown of possible issues.  For example, the following are a few of my favorite features of Pro Writing Aid…

  • It will analyze your sentence length and specify if your sentences are generally too long or too short.
  • The “writing style” check looks for passive verbs, hidden verbs, and repeated sentence starts, all of which can bog down your writing.
  • A “sticky sentences” check will analyze whether your writing has too many “glue” words that can slow your reader down. Glue words are the 200 most used words in the English language.
  • Pro Writing Aid will analyze your diction and give suggestions of simpler ways to present your ideas.
  • The overused words function will highlight where you have utilized certain words too many times.

There are many more helpful functions, but the above examples illustrate certain problems that are not easily recognizable with a simple proofreading.

Another great feature of Pro Writing Aid is its compatibility with Word.  The Word plugin is excellent; but, unless you purchase a subscription, you can only access the plugin for fourteen days.  My advice would be to use the free website tool and then download the plugin when you are doing your final proofread.

Or, like me, you can pay for the service.  Admittedly—and perhaps obviously—I am a Pro Writing Aid fanboy, so I purchased the “Lifetime Premium” option, which allows me to download the plugin forever on an unlimited number of computers.

You can find out more about Pro Writing Aid’s premium options here:  https://prowritingaid.com/en/App/Purchase.

That’s it for now!  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my next post, in which I will describe three more resources that will help you draft an award winning manuscript!



Posted in Blog, On Writing.


  1. Hey Jason,

    Great recommendations. I’ll have to check out Pro Writing Aid. I was a long time lurker on Absolute Write and I concur with everything you said here. Another idea to throw out there: check out the local writing scene. See if there are any writer’s circles going on and join in. Sometimes the lively dialogue that can be generated face to face is immensely helpful, especially if your stuck with where you want your story to go!

  2. Great post(s), Jason. I love plenty of these resources (and will be looking into a couple that I’m not as familiar with). Gotta say, AW is pretty brutal. I used to do Zoetrope (similar) and found it much more supportive and happy, but that’s just one experience. AW is one of the best ones left going. It’s just not for the thin-skinned.

  3. Thank you Matt for the Zoetrope suggestion! I’ll definitely check it out — I may even end up doing a Zoetrope v. AW compare and contrast post!

  4. Thanks Alisse! And I completely concur with your suggestion of local writing organizations…in fact, stay tuned for my next blog post, in which I may just discuss that very topic!

  5. I will definitely check out Pro Writing Aid, thanks for the tip. Zoetrope is an interesting animal, and I’m glad Matt had a good experience. My feeling is that these sharing options are often great for the short term, but they are built to create ongoing communities, and the thing that always goes wrong there is the usual high school stuff–you know, cliques, factions, etc. Another one to try is Fictionaut. If you need an invite (I’m not sure if that is still their model) hit me up. Fictionaut has a more supportive vibe, but it’s still not a place for the vulnerable. It’s pretty though, feels a bit fresher than Z.

  6. Wise, helpful post, Jason. I especially like your point about distinguishing experienced, thoughtful online “critics” from the rest. One factor to consider (in deciding whether to listen to critics) is consensus: when the same criticism keeps coming up again and again. Thanks.

  7. Well written Jason. My son had a writing project for his middle school class and cranked out almost 8K words for it. It was a nice, well contained story of two immigrant teens on their way to America. His instructor gave him an A for the project and it was well-deserved in my opinion. However, while writing it, he struggled with speech tags because his teacher didn’t want any students using “said” because the teacher thought it was a wasted word. My instructor many moons ago considered the word “said” as the midnight janitor of writing. You never really see him, but he does a great job.

    Like you said, common misconceptions and personal biases exist in writing and a lot of people on public boards are rather clueless. Unfortunately, they’re usually the ones talking the most, or the loudest….

    This of course has nothing to do with the length of this reply. 🙂

  8. Hi Jason! I found your write up on Pro Writing Aid very informative. I’m always interested in tools that can help writers hone their craft and make it easier to get that draft completed. Have you tried Scrivener? I hear a lot about that tool and was wondering if they were similar and, if so, if one was better than the other.

  9. Thank you for your comment Laura! And I completely agree with your “high school stuff” assessment. If you have a chance, I would definitely appreciate a Fictionaut invite!

  10. Thank you Randy! And I agree — if there is a consistent theme in criticism, you have to take heed.

  11. Great response Jeff! And very interesting story about your son, especially since I have heard many people say that writers should ONLY use “said.” Can’t please everyone I guess!

  12. Hi Zara! No, I have not used Scrivener yet as I do not think it is compatible with Pro Writing Aid (though I could be wrong about that). I do, however, plan to try Scrivener’s 30 day free trial, if only to see what all the hype is about!

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