Yesterday, someone suggested I look at an online tool for analyzing my writing. I remembered that I’d looked at it in the past, but I couldn’t put my finger on what I’d disliked about it. I tried it again today and I was quickly reminded of why I didn’t like it. It gave me too much information.
For instance, in 9000 words it marked several instances where I “used hyphens inconsistently.” In all but one of the instances, I’d used a phrase as both a noun and verb: The drapes reached from floor to ceiling. vs. The room had floor-to-ceiling drapes. Another section wanted to draw attention to handful of adverbs I’d used in the section. In the end, I’d spent more than a half hour reading an analysis that netted me only one change.
To me though, the more important type of over analysis is what I have been experiencing in the edit of my current manuscript. Earlier this week, I found I had gone through two important scenes and done almost nothing more than tweak the grammar. I’d done no work on the character’s internal voice. I’d done nothing to round-out the scenes. I ended up doing them over. No computer program could have picked out that much more important problem.
A while ago, I picked up a book called Spunk and Bite. This book is important because it dissects the rules and then gives examples of famous authors who break them like people who make spaghetti improperly break their spaghetti before putting it in the pot*.
My point is this: There are libraries full of books on how to write books, and many of them have “rules” about how to write well. Most of the rules are even consistent. But it’s also important to remember none of these rules are absolute.
* I wanted to come up with a better metaphor here, but this just annoys me. You put it in the hot water and it bends.