Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Digital Critique Partner

Greg Pincus from The Happy Accident mentioned this in an email and I'll admit, as a bit of a techno geek, I was curious. It's called Auto Crit and it's basically an automated critique wizard. Seriously. Gives a whole new meaning to an online critique.

So obviously, I had serious doubts as to what this thing could do, but since I had a chapter that was annoying me, I thought I'd paste it in and see how the program worked. I was impressed by the points it claimed it could critique: overused words, sentence variation, cliches & redundancies, repeated words & phrases, pacing, dialogue, initial pronouns, readability and homonyms.

Since I was testing the free version, it would only accept about 800 words and it only critiqued the first three points. Once you pay an annual fee ($47 – $117, depending on the level you choose) you can enter more text and access more critique points. But what it found in those first few points was kind of cool.

The programmed false praise "Awesome! Nice work!" was kind of annoying, but the information was good, especially since this list was followed by my text, with overused words highlighted in red. Guess I need to cut back on it/there and knew/know! The second report on sentence variation was interesting, too.

I like how it gives a visual representation with the red dots of how long the sentences are and I was glad to see that my sentences vary in length. And just in case you were wondering, I blurred my words since this is a first draft of this story :)  The third report showed that I had no redundancies (Yay) and no clichés (Great work).

Of course, these are technical points and it makes sense that an automated editor could find these issues. But can a robot really judge these finer aspects of a story? I'm really curious to know how the algorhythms work on pacing, dialogue and readability. Just not sure if I'm $47-$117 curious.

What do you think? Would you invest in a robot critique partner?


And the winner of the paperback copy of Samuel Park's THIS BURNS MY HEART is:

Congratulations, Ivanova! Email me at solvang sherrie at gmail dot com and I'll get that book sent out to you pronto.


Kristan said...

Hm. Very interesting. I think I'd have to play around with it more on my own work and then compare it to the notes of my crit group to see if I thought it was worthwhile. Also, Scrivener has the "how often do you use these words" function built-in, so that wouldn't be AS essential to me. (Although Scrivener's method isn't always the most convenient, since it also includes "the" and "a.")

Rebecca Gomez said...

Oddly interesting. Sometimes I will use the find feature in Microsoft word to see how many times I've used "but" or "just," etc. To me, things like this can be useful, but there's nothing like a living, breathing proofreader (or critique partner).

Christie Wright Wild said...

Sounds very cool. I'll have to try this out. I'm with you though, not sure if I'm $47 curious!

Rosi said...

Interesting, but I think I'll stick with my human critiquers.

Sherrie Petersen said...

Kristan: I didn't know Scrivener had that function. I tried to use that program and got a bit overwhelmed and went running back to Word with my tail between my legs :P

Rebecca: I totally agree that a critique partner is the best option, but maybe this "oddly interesting" program can help polish before it goes to crit partners, allowing them to delve even further into helping you make the story better.

Christie: I think if I didn't have an amazing crit group already, I'd be forking over the $47 :P

Rosi: My human critiquers are the best. But I think for writers who haven't found those people yet, this could be a good option.

Lisa Reiss said...

Very interesting. But I'll stick to humans! :)

Laura Pauling said...

Sherrie, I understand why Scrivener seemed overwhelming at first. WAtching the tutorials is a must before even trying to open a document. I've been using it for over a year and just know the basics. Usually I've exported to word after the first or second draft. But this time I'm going to stick with it. I'm going to watch more tuturials. I underestimate what if offers.

That program does look neat. I'm just not sure about the price.

Anne Gallagher said...

I found this and tried it too. I stuck in my first 500 words and was awed by what it came back with. My overused words list which usually takes me 3 drafts to find, found them in 30 seconds. I was impressed with just that alone, but not for $47-$117.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I've given these programs (there's a bunch) a look before, and they are kinda cool. Just not sure (like you) about the price tag. :)

Kelly Polark said...

That is cool! Though not sure I'd pay for it. I'd rather pay a human to critique something of mine!

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