Update 2023: I STILL use and love ProWritingAid. Most of the issues I had originally have been resolved with updates, so if you know you wanna try ProWritingAid, you can get a discount with my referral link here. I will get a small bonus and you’ll get a discount! Win-win!
I’ve used ProWritingAid for a little over a year now. I loved it so much when I tried it that I got the lifetime license and haven’t regretted it. ProWritingAid helped me edit two stories for flash fiction contests, including my Midwinter!verse prequel, Witch Soup. I thought I’d never find a “con” for PWA, but I just did. Here’s my honest review of ProWritingAid.
I’m currently editing the third book in a romance series my co-author and I are finishing up and we’re doing a final line edit before we rapid release all three books. Well, I say we’re doing a final line edit, but what I really mean is she’s zooming through a final line edit and I’ve been torturing myself with PWA for 2.5 weeks.
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ProWritingAid can’t edit in chunks on Google Docs
After we whipped up a 73,000 word novel (we didn’t actually whip anything; it whipped us… for months) we did a huge developmental edit on all three books. I talk about what it’s like writing with a co-writer in this post. After the developmental edits, we jumped right into line edits. This is where things got frustrating.
We’d always written and edited together in real time, so when plot or character problems arose, we could talk it out right then. For the line edits, we thought it would be faster to each do our own read-through with our own Track Changes edits. That way we’d catch everything and neither of us would slow the other down. Since we’re ~17 hours apart, depending on Daylight Savings, it would save a ton of time.
Only, it didn’t. We both have lifetime subscriptions to ProWritingAid. All 3 books were written in Google Docs, and we wanted to edit using the ProWritingAid add-on for Docs. The issue?
Google Docs can’t take it.
When you’ve got a big document, Google Docs starts to slow down. (When I wrote fanfiction, I’d usually start a new doc every 20,000 words or so, even if it was in the middle of a story.) Our doc was 75,000 words. When you start adding a lot of suggested edits and other comments, Google Docs gives up on life. We tried running a report with PWA in Google Docs and we nearly lost our entire book from the resulting crash.
Lesson learned: We saved 4 extra copies.
But the problem with ProWritingAid specifically here is that we should be able to “chunk” sections to edit. In an ideal ProWritingAid world, we’d be able to highlight a single chapter and run a PWA report for that chapter only. But that doesn’t work. In Google Docs, PWA ignores highlights and runs a report for the entire document.
Save this post for later ⤵
What’s the solution to ProWritingAid crashing Google Docs?
The best solution I’ve found is to split your novel into as many separate Google Docs as is necessary and sensical. You can probably get away with 10-15k chunks. This can be really unwieldy, and it didn’t work for us in our specific case because when you copy/paste text from one Google Doc to another, you lose the comments. We had a ton of notes saved in comments that we needed to keep through the edits, so we couldn’t split ours. However, this does work if you plan ahead of time!
Solution: If you’re writing your novel in Google Docs, write your story 10-15k chunks, with each chunk in a new document. You can save all these chunks in one folder in Google Drive. Once you get to edits, the ProWritingAid Google Docs add-on will work fine with each segment. Once your novel is fully edited, you can combine it into one document.
ProWritingAid doesn’t work with Mac Word
My co-writer downloaded a copy of our novel as a .docx. When you do that, you do retain all suggested edits (Track Changes) and comments in the .docx file. Since she uses Word with Windows, she had no problem importing this document to Word and using the ProWritingAid Word add-on.
I, on the other hand, learned the true meaning of Apple Angst. For the first time since switching to Mac 7 years ago, I deeply regretted it. Deeply.
ProWritingAid does not offer a Mac Word add-on. According to ProWritingAid’s help docs:
Microsoft Word on Mac doesn’t have the same framework for Add-Ins that Word on Windows does. We therefore can’t create an Add-In. We’d love to, but it’s just not possible.ProWritingAid
So it doesn’t look like my luck will change here anytime soon. Sorry, Mac users.
However, I’m not a Word user anyway. I’d actually only installed the trial to edit with PWA so when I realized it wouldn’t work, I moved on without any heartbreak.
How can you use ProWritingAid with Mac Word?
If you’re using a Mac, and you don’t have access to a Windows computer, you can use ProWritingAid’s desktop app instead. It’s a separate application downloadable from the ProWritingAid site. You can copy/paste your novel into the ProWritingAid desktop app and run PWA reports, as well as edit your novel, from within the PWA app.
It’s a great app, and I would have used it, but it does strip formatting and comments, including prior Track Changes. Also, when you confirm the edits in the PWA desktop app, it inserts them without Track Changes, even if you have Track Changes turned on. Because I was working with a co-writer, I needed to have Track Changes so that she could accept or reject all changes I made.
Solution: The ProWritingAid desktop app is a great solution for authors writing alone, but may be trickier for those who co-write.
ProWritingAid on Word for Windows with a Windows Emulator
As a long-time Mac user, I’ve got an app for that. Or, I thought I did, anyway. I have Parallels, which is a Windows emulator for Mac users. Whenever I need to run something that I can’t run on Mac at all (very rare!) I run it through Parallels. Feeling very clever indeed, after failing to use ProWritingAid with Word for Mac, I opened up Parallels to run Windows Word in the emulator.
Didn’t work. Too much memory needed to run the emulator, Word, and ProWritingAid all at once.
I do have a 2019 iMac, so it can handle almost anything. It just couldn’t handle that.
Can you use ProWritingAid on Word for Windows with a Windows Emulator?
In theory, yes. You’d have to close literally everything else unless you’re running an iMac Pro. It’s going to require a lot of memory so be prepared for lag and possibly some misery.
I did not have the patience for that (I’ve got an 18-month-old and a (few) job(s)!) but it could work for you if it’s your only option.
ProWritingAid Desktop App
When you’re on a Mac, you’ll most likely be using the ProWritingAid desktop app. It integrates with Scrivener and a few other word processing tools. As a writer, Scrivener will probably be the one you’re interested in.
Ultimately, I used the ProWritingAid desktop app with Scrivener because I could automatically split each of the chapters into separate sections with Scrivener. But it’s not a perfect solution. I still lost Track Changes and formatting once the edits were saved back to the Scrivener file.
ProWritingAid Chrome extension
ProWritingAid also has a Chrome extension. I keep this enabled only for Gmail. Be aware if you enable it anywhere you can write in rich text, it can add some funky hard coded CSS to your text input. For example, it always gave me trouble when I had it enabled on WordPress. It’s great for making sure your emails are free of silly their vs. there typos before sending them off, though!
So why do I still use and love ProWritingAid even though it frustrated me while editing this book?
Because it’s honestly amazing! Yes, I did run into a perfect storm of frustrations with this book, but with a little planning, I could have avoided all of it. Now that I know, I’ll plan better next time. My hope is my story will help you plan better, too. ProWritingAid really can make your writing sparkle and I truly believe every writer is better off using it.
Overtime, your writing truly will benefit from the ProWritingAid reports. I’ve noticed that I make silly mistakes way less, and my voice is so much stronger now.
It helps you catch things you might otherwise miss because you’re too in the weeds with your story to see the issues. When you read something as much as we writers read our own work, all the errors start to disappear. Our brains know what’s supposed to be there and supply it for us, even if it’s not really there. That’s how we end up with silly they’re vs their mistakes!
ProWritingAid will catch those for you. It’ll also help you develop your style, improve readability, improve pacing and flow, and catch inconsistencies with your own made-up world-building names. It reminded me, for example, that we only capitalized the word ‘magic’ in very specific places, and it made sure we got all the capitalizations right.
ProWritingAid has a ton of reports for you to nerd out over
- The Writing Style Report
- The Grammar Report
- The Overused Words Report
- The Clichés and Redundancies Report
- The Sticky Sentence Report
- The Readability Report
- The Repeats Check
- The Sentence Length Report
- The Pronoun Report
- The Transition Report
- The Consistency Check
- The Pacing Check
- The Dialogue Tags Check
- The Contextual Thesaurus
- The Diction Report
- The Alliteration Report
- The Homonym Check
- The Acronym Check
- The House Style Check
- The Plagiarism Report
But don’t forget, ProWritingAid doesn’t replace a real life editor!
Even if you get a professional editor to edit your novel, you want it to be as clean as possible before you hand it over to them. This will save you money and save the editor time fixing little things, so they can focus on deeper edits that will make your novel stronger overall. If you’re thinking of getting a manuscript critique for your novel, I would recommend running ProWritingAid reports before and after. You want the editor to be able to focus on the story, not the adverbs.
I asked Lewis from The Novel Smithy what he thought about writers running their manuscripts through ProWritingAid before sending them to him for developmental edits, and here’s what he said:
Whenever I take on a new client and review their manuscript for the first time, I always cross my fingers that they’ve completed at least some editing of their draft. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, which means I spend a lot of my time sifting through unclear sentences and typos rather than getting to analyze their story itself. ProWritingAid can help you catch run on sentences, passive voice, grammar, you name it—all of which will make your editor’s job easier and the feedback you get better. It’s really a win-win for both of you.Lewis Jorstad, The Novel Smithy
I’m currently working with Lewis on developmental edits of my first book and have been really impressed with his process. Check him out at TheNovelSmithy.com. Not only does he run a fantastic writing blog, he also offers editing services at a very fair rate.
So, use ProWritingAid to clean your manuscript up as much as possible before sending it off to an editor. It doesn’t hurt to do one last run with PWA before publishing to Amazon, too.
If you want to give ProWritingAid a try and get a 20% discount, use my code: ProWritingAid 20% Off Discount. (This is an affiliate link, by the way. If you choose to purchase a subscription to PWA with my link, I may get a small commission.) The 20% discount works on all license options (including lifetime!) so you can really get a great deal on it.
Have you reviewed ProWritingAid? I’d love to know if you’ve noticed a difference in your writing after using ProWritingAid. Let me know!