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Author Topic: a toy  (Read 1945 times)

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Kathy Wendorff

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a toy
« on: June 21, 2007, 05:59:20 PM »

Okay, in an effort to get some chatter going, here's a new on-line writing toy I found:

http://www.autocrit.com

You paste in 800 words or less of your WIP, and it does some clever little statistical analyses.

As a certified nerd, I find it entertaining -- I especially like the "sentence length" print-out. The "over-used words" is interesting, too. Instead of saying "No  -ly adverbs! Ever!" they apparently did a statistical analysis on a variety of published works, came up with a range, and then compare your sample against the percentage of -ly adverbs found in those published works.

I can tell you that the limit for -ly adverbs is 1.0% (because I exceeded it in one of my samples by .2%) which is interesting in and of itself.  I may type in passages from favorite authors, and see what happens.

Anyway, I can see how it might flag problems of which you're not aware, but mostly it's just fun to play with.

What do you guys think?

Kathy W. Nerd
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B L McAllister

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Re: a toy
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2007, 10:51:08 PM »

As a toy it's interesting.  As a tool, I hesitate: I typed in the pledge to the flag, and it found one weakness, namely the single use of the word "it."  So, one wonders, what would the machine have me use?  Perhaps replace "for which it stands" by "for which the flag stands"?  Maybe I'll  try Lincoln's Gettysburg address on it, if I can remember enough of it.  Or, hey, how about a popular song?  No, don't know any of those well enough. I know! I'll try it on an unpopular song.

Byron
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Byron Leon McAllister.
Books by Byron and Kay McAllister can most easily be obtained as e-books or in print from the publisher at http://www.writewordsinc.com/ For "Undercover Nudist," the print version is an improved version of the ebook version. The others are the same in both formats.

Bob Mueller

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Re: a toy
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2007, 02:27:53 PM »

I tried a section of my WIP, and it definitely opened my eyes to a couple of issues.

Once I actually finish this one, I might spring for the $40 Platinum before I start submitting it. Can't justify the money yet, as I have a hard enough time not editing stuff I just wrote. I'm trying hard enough to finish the thing first.
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Ingrid

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Re: a toy
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2007, 05:07:07 PM »

1 % of what?  And why the opposition to the innocent "it"?  I bet they also oppose starting with "There."  Some of these rules are based on criteria for technical and business writing.

Ingrid
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Kathy Wendorff

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Re: a toy
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2007, 08:05:21 AM »

Byron and Ingrid -- from information on the site, I understand they used a range of mainstream published fiction as their base.  I'd guess it wouldn't give meaningful results for the Pledge, poetry, non-fiction, experimental fiction, etc.

I'd also guess that the longer the sample you pasted in, the better your results. That "1%" means  1% of the words in the sample were adverbs, and when they looked at published fiction, statistically about 1 out of a hundred words were -ly adverbs. In a 100 word writing sample, one extra adverb will make a bigger difference than in an 8000 word writing sample.

Interestingly, I did go ahead and paste in memorable passages from 2 writers I admire -- Mary Stewart and Dick Francis -- and found  they both used more -ly adverbs than the Autocrit 1%, and set off a variety of other Autocrit alarms, too. What that tells me is not that they're bad writers, or that Autocrit is useless -- but that I personally like my writing more heavily salted with adverbs than the norm.  What to do with that knowledge, I'm not sure -- conform to current taste? Go ahead and use more adverbs, since it gives me the writing flavor I like? In any case, it's given me something to think about.

Also, I can see two very useful aspects of this toy for not-ready-for-prime-time writers like myself. One, as Bob said, it could potentially open your eyes to things you don't  know you're doing -- what dear unlamented Donald Rumsfeld once referred to as "the unknown unknowns."  And a lot of them are not either/or black/white good/bad weaknesses -- they're slippery slope problems. Of course you need "it" regularly.  But if you have a lot of "It was a lovely day. He thought it might rain, but it was warm and sunny..." you'll get a warning bell (which tells you "most published writing is tighter, so check this out"), and Autocrit will highlight all the "its" so you can decide which are necessary, and which mark blah sentences.

That's the 2nd useful thing I can see. It flags a lot of potentially weak writing quickly and efficiently. It could be a huge timesaver editing a rough draft. At least, for someone like me who writes a truly lousy first draft, blurping out cliches, melodrama, clumsy sentences and all,  just trying to get the scene in my head onto the page. There in red are the markers for possible weak writing, repeated phrases, yadda yadda yadda -- could make that 1st clean-up a lot more efficent.

Once I get the structural kinks out of the WIP I'm revising, I may think seriously about plunking down some money for the paid version (even the annual super-deluxe is way less than I pay monthly for my daughter's piano lessons.)

Or maybe I'm only justifying a nifty toy -- the writing equivalent of the laser level I lust after every time I visit the hardware store.

Kathy W.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2007, 08:34:50 AM by Kathy Wendorff »
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Elena

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Re: a toy
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2007, 09:36:07 PM »

Some years ago I was recruited to use the Beta version of a similar program and found it to be very useful in the short term for just the types of things you cited.  I was very impressed by having my writing habits pointed out to me.  But, I didn't care for it in the long run because it seemed to me that while it's good to know what I'm doing differently than the average - I still have to write in my voice.  It helped me develop a balance, as well as unload some excessive word usage habits.

I did take notes, and spent some time going through my favorite authors to see how often they used the same syntax that the program flagged for me.  Just as you found Kathy, my favorite authors definitely did - though I suspect that's why I did.

But, I did have to tell you - I borrowed a laser level from a neighbor and it is a blast.  Whether you get the program or not, do treat yourself to the level.  :D

Elena
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Peg H

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Re: a toy
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2007, 11:10:14 PM »

Thought I'd play a bit so I plugged in my first chapter and was pleasantly surprised at my results.

I had fun playing.  I like toys! ;D

Peg H
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Ingrid

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Re: a toy
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2007, 09:31:01 AM »

Thanks, Kathy, for the explanation.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm more heavily read in British authors and tend to follow their styles. American mystery fiction is essentially stripped to the bare bones.  I tolerate this but don't warm up to it.

Besides, different authors intentionally use quite different styles and word choices fall into this category.  In the end, you have to decide if you want to write like Robert B. Parker or Colin Dexter.

Ingrid
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Janet Koch

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Re: a toy
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2007, 02:30:01 PM »

I know I have certain words I use too much in manuscripts -- matter of fact I know darn well I use them so much that I keep a list of the little buggers. Part of my final editing is totting up how many times I've used variations of the following:

Start
Study
Begin
Eyed
Gaze
Glance
Still
Maybe
Only
Seem
Gust
Nod
Just...

Okay, the list is a lot longer than that, but you get the idea. Kathy's new toy might help me out quite a bit!

Janet
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