And you feel like your brain has turned to mush…
Or when you want to smack your head against the desk – repeatedly and with great force. You need to distance yourself from your work.
In short, take a break!
After taking a couple of days from my previous edits, mainly to percolate the ideas around in my mind (this happily coincided with the weekend! Yay!) I set to changing things. Having given my eyes a couple of days to distance them from the story also meant I came in with a fresh perspective.
This edit was one of the most brutal. I went in and changed anything that I thought didn’t fit, I came in with different ideas on how to say the same thing but with more detail, offering to the reader what I believe is a richer experience.
This edit is also when I added chapter 3. The previous edits had finished at the end of chapter 2. (Not that you’ve seen the rest of chapter 1, let alone chpater 2 or 3 yet.)
The yellow highlight shows additions or changes in words, sentence structure or both. The green was added specifically to add a sense of urgency to the writing. By adding long and short sentences mixed in together, but making the bulk of them closer to the short-range it helps to add a sprinkle of suspense.
Words: 550 – I was quite ruthless this edit down from 588 words.
Have any of you used the Microsoft Word built-in readability statistics?
I use it quite a lot with business writing to check if I’m on track, but it’s also useful for fiction. Have you heard of the Flesch Reading Ease or the Flesh-Kincaid grade level? Yes, no, maybe?
Flesh Reading Ease: This is based upon a formula (exactly what that formula is I’m not sure), basically, the higher the score the easier the material is to read. Some examples are, Reader’s Digest has a readability index of about 65, Time magazine about 50 and the Harvard Law Review averages around the low 30s.
Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level: This translates the reading score into US education grade levels; the lower the score the easier the material is to read. ‘Standard’ writing should aim to be around eighth grade with a readability score of approx. 60.
Goals to try to reach:
NOTE: This is obviously a generalisation, and should be adjusted depending on your audience. Also, if you write fantasy or science-fiction where non-standard language is used, this will affect the result.
Average sentence length: Maximum of 20 words.
The percentage of passive voice: Maximum of 25%; in talking points aim for 0%. Active voice is easier to connect with as a reader, easier to read.
Flesch reading ease: Aim for 40+
Flesch-Kincaid grade level: Aim for 10-12
I’m not exactly sure why it thinks I’ve only got 2 paragraphs, but the number of sentences is correct.
One of the things that these statistics can highlight is when you use complex words when a simple one would better suit and make the text easier to read.
Have you had some fails when using this guide? I know I have! Passive voice in business writing is common. If you haven’t used this fantastic little thing you can turn it on in Word. Sadly, I don’t think Mac have this feature in their Office suite.
Tell us about your experiences below.