Novel Editing Software for Mac?

CJ
CJ Parmenter
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Tue Aug 28, 2012 3:46 am Post

Greetings,
I am currently using Scrivener for Windows, but am now faced with the necessity of purchasing a new laptop, and therefore agonizing over a possible switch to Mac. The switch will not be an easy one to make financially, but the prospect of moving up to Scrivener 2.0 is compelling.

Given my complete ignorance of the Mac platform, may I ask if anyone knows of an editing application for Mac which might be the equivalent of Editor by Serenity Software?

http://www.serenity-software.com/

Editor's user interface leaves a great deal to be desired, but after experimenting with the free trial I can see genuine value. I've been Googling Mac options for some time but am now at a standstill. If there's anything equivalent or better than Editor out there, it might make the leap a "Just Do It."

Thanks in advance!

mb
mbbntu
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Tue Aug 28, 2012 7:15 am Post

I don't know of any such program myself, so I'll have to leave others to make suggestions. However, I can't help feeling that software of that kind *could* create as many problems as it solves. I taught EFL and English literature at university for many years, and I came to the conclusion that the quality of a person's writing depended greatly on their reading: if they read material that was well written, and they properly analysed what they were reading, their own writing was likely to get better. Using software of the kind you mention is likely to make one concentrate on the aspects of writing that the software is capable of detecting, with the risk that one neglects other aspects. I know of no software that is capable of analysing rhythm in writing, for example, yet I firmly believe that rhythm is one of the most powerful tools in writing, albeit one that is little used nowadays. I also believe that writing is a craft, and that anyone who writes seriously needs to take the time to learn the craft -- which means developing an ear and eye for language that is much more subtle and refined than any computer software. These are all fairly obvious things to say, of course, and for all I know you have already won multiple awards for your writing -- but the gist of my thinking is "have faith in the software between your ears, it's far better than anything you will find outside". I would also encourage you to make the leap to Mac in any case -- it is a very satisfying environment to work in. (And who knows -- next month someone might release an editing program for the Mac that knocks Editor for Windows into a cocked hat! But I shouldn't undermine my own argument!)

Best of luck,
Martin.

PS: you can, of course, also install Windows on a partition on a Mac, and run Windows programs if you really need them.
You should judge people not by how close they get to the top, but by how far they have come from the bottom. Some people have a mountain to climb just to get to the place where others start out. (Me, 2010)

dr
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Tue Aug 28, 2012 9:12 am Post

Try using Google and search for "mac grammar editor"
The page shows many results; top program is Grammarian Pro X.
Also, the free TextEdit that comes with OS X checks grammar.
It's a Preference that you select from within the program.

CJ
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Tue Aug 28, 2012 6:05 pm Post

Thanks to both mbbntu and druid for your thoughtful replies. Mbbntu, you raise some excellent points about the downfalls of relying on software to do the thinking. I'm of the same mind, however, I do see an application like Editor as source of both learning and craft building. I doubt any software will ever be able to fully cope with the infinite complexity of language, and in fact the results of my trial run (on a chapter from my WIP) were roughly 30/70. That is to say, 30% of the output pointed me to issues which I simply didn't catch for one reason or another -- some of them stupid mistakes, while others were genuine gaps in my knowledge of craft, and I never would have spotted them. The remaining 70% of the output was the usual rubbish.

This result I compare very favorably to the grammar checker in Word, which is -- to put it as politely as I can -- only marginally helpful at the best of times and often misleading. As an aside, I quickly researched Grammarian Pro X from Druid's reply this morning, and found a review which compared it favorably to Word's standard grammar check (the reviewer liked Word's checker much better than the one in Pages, and offered GPX as a replacement). In my mind, this caused the "sad whistle" to go pheeeeewwwwwww.

So, while I have yet to win any awards for my unpublished scrivenings (my wife did present me with a cake), I do have a complete rough draft, and am looking for something to help polish the revisions prior to sending it out for professional attention. With the cost of professional editing reaching into the thousands, a program like Editor can (I believe) help reduce that cost by weeding out a lot of the hidden technical foibles. At the very least, it is one more way to force my hardening gray matter to focus more clearly and dispassionately on the words I've written.

P.S.: I appreciate the nudge toward switching to Mac. Real-life feedback from users such as yourself is of the highest value, and serves as good reassurance amid the flurry of conflicting viewpoints available online.

mb
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Tue Aug 28, 2012 10:13 pm Post

CJ, find a publisher first, not an editor. The publisher will send your manuscript to an editor -- don't pay for editing yourself. The publisher will only send it to another editor if they decide to publish.

Bear in mind that editing software has been programmed by human beings -- in other words, it is making an evaluation that is based on what the programmers think is important, or on what the programmers are capable of incorporating into the software. You may actually be getting bad "advice". Ironically, it is only possible to judge whether these programs are any good or not when you have arrived at a level of knowledge that makes them redundant.

It might be more useful to do some reading about writing. Everyone will have their own list, but in my case I found these interesting or useful: E. Gowers, *The complete plain words*; Kingsley Amis, *The King's English*; Bill Bryson, *Mother tongue*; G. V. Carey, *Mind the stop*. I also have a kind of love affair with the Oxford English Dictionary -- I have the full version on my Mac hard drive! One of the best things I ever bought. You might also have a look at Swift's famous essay *A letter to a young gentleman, lately enter’d into holy orders* (http://jonathanswiftarchive.org.uk/brow ... _3_2.html#).

Using a Mac is a bit like sitting in a pleasant room with a nice view.

Best, Martin.
You should judge people not by how close they get to the top, but by how far they have come from the bottom. Some people have a mountain to climb just to get to the place where others start out. (Me, 2010)

Hu
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Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:25 am Post

CJ Parmenter wrote:Bear in mind that editing software has been programmed by human beings -- in other words, it is making an evaluation that is based on what the programmers think is important, or on what the programmers are capable of incorporating into the software. You may actually be getting bad "advice". Ironically, it is only possible to judge whether these programs are any good or not when you have arrived at a level of knowledge that makes them redundant.

It might be more useful to do some reading about writing. Everyone will have their own list, but in my case I found these interesting or useful: E. Gowers, *The complete plain words*; Kingsley Amis, *The King's English*; Bill Bryson, *Mother tongue*; G. V. Carey, *Mind the stop*. I also have a kind of love affair with the Oxford English Dictionary -- I have the full version on my Mac hard drive! One of the best things I ever bought. You might also have a look at Swift's famous essay *A letter to a young gentleman, lately enter’d into holy orders* (http://jonathanswiftarchive.org.uk/brow ... _3_2.html#).


Those two paragraphs should be issued together with reading lists on the first day of all humanities courses in the English language for 16 to 24-year-olds.
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mb
mbbntu
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Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:29 pm Post

Er ... thank you for the implied compliment. Just my personal thoughts on the matter!

Martin.
You should judge people not by how close they get to the top, but by how far they have come from the bottom. Some people have a mountain to climb just to get to the place where others start out. (Me, 2010)

Hu
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Thu Aug 30, 2012 8:41 am Post

mbbntu wrote:Er ... thank you for the implied compliment. Just my personal thoughts on the matter!

Martin.


Simply, I endorse all that you wrote (many apologies for the erroneous attribution... :oops: ). I haven't experienced using "Editor", but every other such application that I've come across has generated so many false negatives in the first few minutes as to render it useless, and what's more, delay the writing process beyond acceptability. I can see that they could well have a role if they worked, but, within my experience, software has yet to conquer fully the intricacies of English use. That gut feeling one gets that it just doesn't sound right, developed through as much reading as one can possibly muster, is still the best editor, I think. :)

And by the way, Martin, rhythm (of the right sort) as a hugely desirable but widely disregarded attribute of English prose? Yesss! :)
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
competitors, working away in the night in
Paris or London or Erie, PA.'

Ve
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Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:40 pm Post

Can't answer your question, but I can say this: Scrivener for Mac is 50 times the program that the Windows version is.

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Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:51 pm Post

Well, let's give Lee a bit of credit. OS preferences and version 2 status aside, I'd only rate Mac Scrivener at 24 or 25 times as good. ;)
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PJ
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Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:12 am Post

Hugh wrote:I can see that they could well have a role if they worked, but, within my experience, software has yet to conquer fully the intricacies of English use.

I doubt that software -- excluding that between the ears -- ever can conquer those intricacies. What it might conquer is the self-confidence of so many writers that its own formulae/paradigms become accepted as de facto standards. As if the poor language didn't already have enough problems.

Hugh wrote:And by the way, Martin, rhythm (of the right sort) as a hugely desirable but widely disregarded attribute of English prose? Yesss!

Amen.

Phil
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Jaysen
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Sat Sep 01, 2012 11:27 am Post

PJS wrote:I doubt that software -- excluding that between the ears -- ever can conquer those intricacies. What it might conquer is the self-confidence of so many writers that its own formulae/paradigms become accepted as de facto standards. As if the poor language didn't already have enough problems.

I might be tempted to argue that "self teaching" platform that truly approach AI would actually surpass the human cognitive ability. The question, that I'm not sure is answerable, is if "creativity" is cognitive or not. If creativity is a mere matter of comparison, extension, and combination (compare ideas, extend them internally then combine them in prose) then all a truly self teaching cognitive application would need is adequate hardware to process and store its "thoughts". If we begin to suggest, as so much sci-fi does, that creativity is a non-cognitive process, something derived from a living beings essence that one could call a "soul", then we can never guess if software will ever surpass its current limitations.

I would suggest that we are at storage capability in the compute world, for text and limited logic AI. Computational capacity, considering Moore's Law, shouldn't me more than 5 years to a decade away. How we would program, write the software, for such a thing… that is the problem that I don't think anyone really considers. Our current programing options, including the oft touted LISP appear too structured to allow anything approaching true cognition.

The current comparison evaluators only allow for 2 point comparison, A compared to B, then A compared to C. The human mind appears to compare A, B and C in a much less linear manner. While impossible to accurately illustrate due to the linear method of communications we have but we can try. Go get a cookie from a cookie jar. The mind instantly recognizes the path from the computer to the kitchen when you get up. You do not compare the elements presented to you mind to "find the door". When you get to the kitchen a glance at the counter and you recognize the cookie jar. You do not need to do a list-wise comparison of every object in your sight to a data bank of known object. I could go on and on but I think the point is there already.

What many consider "intelligent" programming today, is really just "speed up" due to advances in hardware speeds. Voice recognition technology, by for the most visible AI like improvement today (Siri anyone?), is still just a comparison of syllabic recording to a data bank of for matching. The improvement is in the quality of recording leading to better syllabic detection, and a much much faster pattern matching backend (the backend has been extended to include not just "word" guessing, but context comparison as well leading to more accuracy, it is still just an illusion of more intelligence created by speed).

If we can overcome programing limitations as well as the HW limitations then there will be a point in time where a new computer will actually require several years of "training", just like a child. It will also become increasingly capable of replacing the human mind as it is trained. My fear is that once that point is reached the majority of our "doomsday" projections of AI overtaking the world will be closer to reality than we care to admit.

But what do I know? I'm just an unedumacated hillbilly. :wink:
Jaysen

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PJ
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Sun Sep 02, 2012 9:49 am Post

Jaysen wrote:The question, that I'm not sure is answerable, is if "creativity" is cognitive or not. If creativity is a mere matter of comparison, extension, and combination (compare ideas, extend them internally then combine them in prose) then all a truly self teaching cognitive application would need is adequate hardware to process and store its "thoughts".


The original post asked about a computer program’s ability to examine a novel, discovering and correcting its flaws. Some potential flaws, such as over-reliance on prepositions, can be identified, and changes can be proposed. If such technical matters are what OP worries about, a computer program might help. (Still, what would it do to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, whose final sentence contains more than a dozen prepositions?)

Introduce that frail monster called "creativity" to the mix, however, and everything changes. To begin, you need to look at style and tone and rhythm. Do more than balance technical details; actually comprehend the writer’s meaning, intent, voice.

A test scenario: Consider three generally differentiable processes: comprehension, evaluation, and creation.

Can a computer comprehend a short story? I don’t know; I suspect not, but that’s an unsupported opinion.

Can a computer evaluate a short story? Only if it can comprehend that story, so if the answer to 1 is no, then the answer here is no.

Can a computer write a short story? Try a thought experiment in cyber-creativity. Grade the computer through the process.
1: Motivation:
    a/ the computer decided on it own to write the story.
    b/ you directed the computer to write the story.
If a, continue. If b, game is over.

2: Genesis:
    a/ the computer abstracted plot, characters, setting from its own self-generated awareness of the world.
    b/ the computer abstracted plot, characters, setting from its data base.
If a, continue. If b, game is over.

3: Evaluation:
    a/ The story thus produced is rational, complete, and coherent in human terms. (It need not be “very good.” Most human-written stories are not very good.)
    b/ The story thus produced is not rational, complete, and coherent in human terms, but does resonate with other computers.
    c/ The story is trash.

If a, you may be onto something.
If b, the computers may be onto something.
If c, game is over.

A short story, complex enough if it’s any good, is only a first step. What will the computer do with a novel? Let’s not even ask if it can write one. Can it simply comprehend novels well enough to offer a coherent evaluation?

Have the computer read two of my favorites: Catch-22 and The Tin Drum. Ask it to find parallels, in story lines, in character development, and in real-world events which those books reference.

Damn. We’ll need a computer which can read both English and German. More challenges.

    Incidentally, and for no other purpose than to complicate the topic beyond all chance of resolution, if we deal with “creativity,” why focus on prose? That is only one of several creative outlets. Can computers dance and sing, carve statues, paint pictures, write poems? But enough. Back on topic.

As for a computer-written novel as complex and just plain good as either of those... No, not in the era of homo sapiens. Perhaps by the time we are supplanted by the next evolutionary form, the computer will also have evolved. And maybe, as many dare to fear, that supplanting form will be a computer.

But what do I know? I’m just an improvident old man, living on Social Security, the kindness of friends, and an occasional f/l gig. :mrgreen:
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nom
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Sun Sep 02, 2012 1:16 pm Post

I know nothing about this other than I saw it on the Mac app store today: Wordsmith by Plow Software.

EDIT: I just had quick look a the website. The app looks pretty, but it doesn't seem to do much for editing other than its so-called "linguistic analyser" which compares sections of the document to itself for comparative readability. Still, there's some nice ideas in the app so I wish the developer all the best.
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Ah
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Sun Sep 02, 2012 1:43 pm Post

The ultimate answer to this depends on what kind of writer you want to be. For functional nonfiction (self-help, how-to, etc) that depends on the transparent transference of useful information, software-based grammar solutions can be a help. But if you aspire toward serious fiction or literary nonfiction, where the precision use and purposeful misuse of grammar is part of the art, then software-based grammar solutions are no help at all.

Everyone from Jane Austen to T.C. Boyle abuses Mrs. Grundy's grammar shamefully, and they do this to create an effect. But to violate the rules, you have to know them. For this, software doesn't work. (As an act of instructional self-amusement, stuff a few paragraphs from, say, Pride and Prejudice or Moby Dick or Wide Sargasso Sea or Atonement into a grammar checker; it's almost as funny as Amazon's one-star reviews of the great classics.)

To paraphrase an earlier entry on this theme, Read Good Writers. That will help you far more than grammar software. Then buy a few books on grammar written by people who can actually write. The best of these, to my mind, is still Strunk & White's The Elements of Style. It's kind of antiquated (I think the original dates from 1911), but far less so than Fowler, and E.B. White actually could write. Woe is I and The Transitive Vampire are also decent guides, and far more modern. Though also far wordier.

It seems these days that two-thirds of my generic rejection letters go to writers who were looking for software shortcuts to what was, is, and always will be difficult and time-consuming work.