2013 – Week 10 and A Story on Automation

Hello, my friends, and welcome to an early edition of newsletter number ten. I have a treat for you tomorrow, so I’ve just pulled this post forward a day to make space for it.

Editing and beta-reading – both doing great. I am so pleased with the progress. My days are full, but that’s exactly right for me.

Writing – also doing well, even better than I thought it would. There is so much joy in writing, I wonder what possessed me to get a 9 to 5 job years ago.

My TBR list – oh, dear! I read a few books that were not worth rating (needless to say, they’re no longer on my kindle). Just as I was becoming despondent and wondered whether it was time I went back to some classics, things slowly started to pick up. One, trad-published, deserved a 3 star rating, but I won’t waste my time or yours with its review, and then there’s the indie one I will talk about tomorrow. Patience! You’ll just have to wait till tomorrow to see. I’ll only give you one clue: this author has been featured on my blog before, but I hadn’t read any of their books at that time.

And now, the NEW experience for this week. Oh, yes, there’s something new!

I tripped over a blog post, recently, glorifying editing software. No, it wasn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last I see, I’m quite sure. Only next time I won’t bother reading or following the links.

Let me make my stance clear: I don’t think editing software could ever be a good idea. There is no substitute for human thinking when it comes to phrase construction, and don’t even get me started on placing the emphasis on the right word or idea. How could a machine ever be taught that?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the role of automation and I use it in my day-to-day life all the time. But high quality writing requires a finesse few people have. A software developer would have to have the knowledge and talent of a lot of those people in addition to his own skill to even begin to design something vaguely resembling the real deal.

And it won’t be a minuscule program, either. The variations in the way we write, the voices we want to give our characters, and the genres we aim for can easily cause confusion. You couldn’t use the same software for fiction and non-fiction, for example. And every year, this clever piece of software would require significant alterations to take into account fast evolving trends in our language – teen street talk is just one little aspect of it. I have teenage kids; I should know.

Anyway… I went and looked at the sites of these wonderful examples of our software design intelligence with as open a mind as I was capable of. Ha ha ha. Good job I have a sense of humour! These guys also offer manuscript editing services, by the way, so I did have an ulterior motive: to size up the competition while I’m at it.

What you’re supposed to do is paste a block of text in a box and let the beast loose on it. It looks at several aspects of your writing and, a few seconds later, throws out a list of problems (in its opinion). A completely, thoroughly mechanised, insensitive digest where every nuance you slaved over for hours to get just right causes it a problem.

I won’t be as petty as to pick and dissect and trample in mud each of the features right now but, boy, is it tempting! I keep having to remind myself that my essay could easily spread to a few thousand words, as I will sure-as-hell be using examples, and I have better things to do with my life — like write. Or edit for real.

Here’s a link to a free program… well… partially free. Try it and you’ll see — it’s quite entertaining, and good for a laugh — but whatever you do, please, please, please don’t think it’ll fix anything. Nothing but the human mind is able to convey the right message in the optimum way.

I’ve deleted my account when, on page two of the ‘Send to Beta Readers’ feature, I found this classic:

Don’t worry, you’re work is encrypted.

‘Nuff said!

you're editing software

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