Category Archives: editing

On Editing and Hemingway app

A New Thing is making its way around the Interwebs, especially the Interwebs that I happen to patrol.

It is called Hemingway, located at hemingwayapp.com, a URL you should follow to behold its simple goodness.

The web app tries (and, in my admittedly limited experience, generally succeeds) to analyze text that you place in the box.

It looks for sentence clarity (based largely on length and how many clauses are present, I think), adverb use, passive voice, and unnecessary obfuscation. I mean, unclear terms.

The app also claims to gauge the approximate reading level of the text, indicating what level of education your potential eraser will probably need to comprehend what you wrote.

While reading level approximations are interesting and all, the useful part for me lies in the highlighting of words and phrases one ought to reconsider. I ran a chapter through the app today and it helped keep me on track with my purpose: to clarify any mumbly sentences and cut back on adverbs. My sentences can get a bit burdensome, and with the app highlighting probable suspect sentences, I was able to hone in on fixing the flow of the story without meandering around aimlessly.

Hemingway is by no means a perfect solution to editing. It takes a formulaic approach to the process, with no consideration of voice or what you were trying to accomplish with a certain phrase. (I hear this is what fleshy human editors are for, but I have yet to encounter one in the wild.)

But you don’t have to fix everything that it highlights, obviously, and the option to toggle which types of suspect words and phrases show up could be handy if, say, adverbs are unavoidable or intentional in your writing.

Another thing that helped is pasting small chunks into the Hemingway app to analyze, usually about a page at a time. This tightened my focus and helped mitigate the overwhelming number of flagged sentences when the entire chapter is placed under the microscope. (Plus, in my browser, the highlighted text starts to do a weird shift as you get further down the page, rendering it basically unreadable.)

I actually had a fair amount of fun running my chapter through the app. It became a sort of game, checking out the stats on my page of prose and then seeing how well I could reduce the problem areas. (If you want to gamify this app, just keep in mind that it’s like golf: the lower your score, the better.)

Because I am, at best, hyper paranoid about typing in a browser without assurances that my work is saved, I modified the text in a Google Drive document while glancing at highlighted text in Hemingway. Then I pasted the revised text on top of the original and watched the numbers wither with a certain amount of unnecessary glee.

Someday, I will be confident enough in my writing habits to venture forth into the world of editing without any handrails. At the moment, however, the Hemingway app presents a nice little guide to my initial attempts at clarifying my writing.

Now if only it gave plot suggestions…

Well, This Sucks

Guess what? It turns out editing is not easy.

I’m starting to understand the concept of putting the draft aside for a time on a whole new level — one based in actual experience and my own feelings! Who knew?

(Okay, Chuck Wendig knew, but for the purposes of my argument, I shall temporarily ignore that fact.)

I don’t hate my manuscript.

Honest!

I’m just a little tired. I think we need a little space.

No, manuscript, it’s not you. It’s me.

I have done some soul searching (yes, manuscript, I have a soul, shut up) and I think we need to have a little time apart.

Okay, if you want the truth, I felt pretty good about keeping the status quo, even once I typed “THE END” onto you. There was something else that, well, it repulses me.

FINE, YOU DRAGGED IT OUT OF ME.

IT’S THE SUMMARIZING.

You’re too complex to summarize, manuscript! How can I contain everything I love about you in a mere two pages? I am sure it is possible, but the process is dragging both of us down.

I need the summary. This week. Therefore, we will pound our way through this, get it over with, then just take a little break. I swear to you that I will return, refreshed and raring to, what was it, Edit the Unmerciful Suck Out Of [You].

Er, excuse me folks.

I’m sorry you had to see that. I just think, if I post it here, in public, maybe my manuscript will start to understand that we just need to get through this discomfort so we can get back to the awesome.

This is my first somewhat professional deadline. I resist throwing quotes on that term because it is a deadline for a professional company to which I will submit my novel. I am, in fact, an aspiring professional.

That being said, I don’t know just how “pro” I feel at the moment. Mostly, I am exhausted and looking forward to working with some new characters, some new stories soon. This manuscript will be waiting for me to polish the rest of it up and I think that will be a good process too, just not yet. I must remind myself, on a constant basis, that this is what Real Writers feel the world over and that it is all Perfectly Normal.

When it comes to the creative world, normal is a bit of a relative term, but I think I am in close enough proximity to that to feel good about it.

It is late, and I am rambling. For this, I apologize. For feeling the need to vent my frustrations in a public forum, I do not. (Unless you are reading this… you know who you are. Er, sorry?)