Have you seen the new products on the market to replace live editors with an automated intelligence? I see authors spending a lot of money on these services, while being excited that they can now save the money they used to spend on editors.
I see editors moving to other careers or accepting impoverishing fees just trying to stay marketable.
Pick up a newspaper and you’ll see that more and more publications are using automation instead of live, intuitive, experienced editors.
A friend recently asked me to help decipher a recipe that was in a published, highly rated cookbook. It included such ingredients as “tortured cream” (whipped cream) and “evening meal exercises” (dinner rolls).
Aside from the above silliness, here are my top 5 reasons why I was horrified to learn some publishers are switching to automation for editing their clients’ books:
Right can be Wrong
Something can be technically right, and horribly wrong. Let’s say you have two characters in a book. You teach your automated editor how to spell both names. What happens if you include a correctly spelled name of the wrong character in a scene?
One book I read had a scene where a character walked into the room and sat down on the sofa. Two pages later, the same character walked into the same room and sat on the same sofa.
Technically both scenarios are right and do not violate any grammatical rules. But they’re both wrong.
My editor actually keeps a list of characters that she refers to and makes sure that each one is where they are supposed to be in a scene.
Several times I’ve seen her catch an idiom that was misplaced in time. The idiom is correct, but completely wrong in context.
What if a certain character’s actions are not true to their inner motivations? Details like this make a story come alive. Or kill it.
Wrong can be Right
On the flip side of this, automated editors may flag rhetorical devices like anaphora and epizeuxis and polysyndeton as wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
A good human editor will see the power in these techniques and leave them alone!
An experienced editor will understand that some POV characters use language that ain’t always grammatically correct. I double-dare a computer to handle a colloquially challenged narrator.
Oh, sure, you can click ignore. But who wants to do that through an entire manuscript and tell it to accept a lower standard of grammatical correctness for this work of fiction? Then how is it going to handle Aunt Mabel’s perfect dialogue?
Content can be Missing
In my own writing, I often miss opportunities to describe setting. I can envision a powerful AI that might notice missing description, but what if I didn’t describe it clearly? What if the correct words that I used did not convey my intent?
My editor will not let me get away with that!
As authors, we see things in our head that don’t always make it to the page. Good editors will absolutely call an author on that.
Right may not be Good Enough
Just because something is technically right doesn’t mean it is empowered.
Can your AI recognize that this is the turning point and we’ve minimized the main character’s reaction, missing the impetus for a dramatic change?
My editor loves to tell me when my endings aren’t strong enough!
And this brings me to my last point.
Writing gets Messy
When my last book’s ending wasn’t strong enough, I would have run straight into a huge writer’s-block wall, but my editor returned the manuscript with a series of suggestions on how to fix it. She didn’t just tell me it was weak, she told me why and what it needed.
Having another person to talk to who cares as much about your story and your success as you do is not something any computer can ever replace.
I work with writers every day. As writers, we deal in emotions, and those creative emotions can sneak up on us, destroying our ability to think dispassionately about our darlings. We wrangle ourselves into plot twists and scenes with no sequels.
For me, my editor is my mentor, my cheerleader, the person I trust to tell me if I need to get back to my desk or get away from it for a while.
She is completely irreplaceable by any artificial intelligence.
Lori – you are my superhero!
When editing your work do you use critique groups, Beta readers, and/or professional editors to make your work shine? What do you think about automated editing?
Originally published at Writers in the Storm, September 20, 2021, 5 Reasons Tech Can’t Replace Editors | Writers In The Storm (writersinthestormblog.com)