Gunning in the Fog

I’m winding down to my long overdue vacation. Lately, I feel like I’ve been shooting into the fog, hoping to hit something. The final round of agent submissions felt like that. The attempts to heal my sciatica have felt like that. No targets hit so far, and worse … I can no longer see where the targets are, or what they are. Weariness from a year of constant pain has fogged it all over.

So I’m off for two weeks, to relax, recharge, and re-focus.

To keep myself going until that break, I decided to play around with the Gunning-Fog Index and the Flesch-Kincaid Test this week. You could be forgiven for mistaking them for obscure titles of gripping thrillers, but actually, they are metrics for grading the readability of text. It’s based around sentence and word length. I applied it to some chapters of my novel. The readability was quite good, but by adopting some of the change suggestions from Edit Central, I found I could improve every chapter by almost a further point, which brings it comfortably into my target audience range.

Readability Test Results

I might apply it to the whole novel when I return. Tighten it up even more. I wouldn’t recommend applying it blindly as an editing technique. It’s just interesting, that’s all. It makes me more aware of my style, and where it could trip up a reader. It made me think of even simpler, clearer ways to compose some sentences.

The most interesting thing of all, for me, is that readability was hardest in chapters where certain people were talking. This is mainly because those people would be having some technical conversations (with lots of multiple syllable words like ‘forensics’ or ‘genetics’). I could almost tell which chapter it is by the readability index alone. (I’m too damned close to this thing!) Is editing ever truly finished? Or am I just gilding the lily at this stage? Time to let go.

Ah well – holiday time too. Back in a couple of weeks.

Add comment September 4th, 2009

Post Novel Depression

I’ve been coming down after completing the final edit of the novel. It’s that strange period writers talk about, when space is needed between ending one project and beginning another. My mind is freewheeling in the same high gear as the end of the last novel, but it can’t yet be shifted into low gear to drive any new project, not until its idle speed falls back to neutral. You know what hopping from fourth to first gear does to your car – imagine what it could do to your mind!

It is time for an essential literary detox, a purging of the muse, a writing palate clensing sorbet, a crash from the creative high.

Eventually, my mind will turn again to the new project, but it normally has to do it in its own time. On this, it can’t be forced. But I’ll know when it is ready. Last week, after watching Spooks (one of my favourite shows), plot ideas for Zero Day started popping into my mind in the shower. It won’t be long now before I won’t be able to get the new story out of my mind.

In the mean time, I’m catching up on submissions and a pile of reading.

Add comment November 2nd, 2008

What’s the best time to be creative?

Apparently, it’s 10.04 pm, according to this bit of research.

I’ve heard most writers say they write either late at night or early morning, which tallys with the findings that afternoon is generally the least creative time of the day.

I shall make an appointment for 10.04 pm every night, to be out looking at the stars waiting for the next ingenius plot twist to strike!

2 comments October 21st, 2008

Truth and Lies

One of the most interesting aspects for me of this process has been the researching of the Central Intelligence Agency. We all enjoy learning something about the operation of an outfit like that because, well, it’s secret. There’s the thrill of feeling you are somewhere you are not meant to be. Over the years, I’ve walked along the uniquely bizarre terrain of CIA and learned a whole new lexicon of jargon such as “traces”, “dry cleaning”, “sheepdipping”, and “backstopping”.

The problem with researching an outfit like the CIA is that, well, you’ve guessed it – it’s secret. Information about it is pretty thin on the ground for members of the public. But I’ve learned that it is out there, you just need to scrape it from many different sources. In many ways, researching a novel works like the process of intelligence gathering employed by the CIA itself.

Intelligence analysis seeks to unveil truth; so too should good fiction writing. It should aim to give the impression of reality and the truth behind it, but augmented in order to entertain the reader, without ever letting the sense of reality slip.

However, as much as the CIA seeks to unveil truth, it also seeks to conceal and obfuscate the inconvenient truths that warrant protection about itself and its Homeland.

In that gap of knowledge, between truth and lies, imagination roams, and (hopefully) entertainment thrives.

Add comment March 27th, 2008

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