On Misinterpretation

If I ever get very rich (from writing or otherwise — though neither possibility is likely) one thing I may do is go to every bookshop I can find (possibly not that many if they keep closing at the rate they do), buy every copy of Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and hide them somewhere safe from over-eager creative writing students. If a few copies were removed from circulation I don’t think it wouldn’t be a terribly bad thing — at least not for people in writing workshops.

It’s not that I dislike Stephen King or think it’s a poor book — I have my own copy and read it with great interest. In fact it’s in many ways too good: the advice it contains is so directly and unambiguously argued that it works like a loaded weapon — let a gun get into the wrong hands and you’re asking for trouble (and I don’t exclude myself from this as I’m now questioning whether some of my own writing style has been too directly influenced by its recommendations).

The book is subtitled ‘A Memoir of the Craft’ — which is something that most of its proseltyizers  fail to read — but that is exactly what it it is. It’s King’s account of the techniques of the craft that have worked well for him — and he’s an outstandingly successful novelist who is also a fine writer and much underrated by literary snobs who look down on genre fiction. However, some of the justified anger that he perhaps feels about the lack of seriousness with which his work is taken seems to me to translate into a rhetorical rebuttal in which he passionately defends his position but, simultaneously, appears to some readers as ‘this is the way it must be done’ — or worse, ‘follow these golden rules and you’ll be a bestselling writer’.

King is, no doubt, sensible enough to have put a disclaimer in the book saying that it’s not a ‘get-rich-quick’ manual (and he’s by no means the first person to have given similar advice, as he acknowledges by referring to Strunk and White’s ‘Elements of Style’). However, it’s ironic that, given the poor esteem in which he says he holds the writing workshopping mentality, his book appears to have provided a source of ammunition that feeds the exact behaviours he criticises.

There seem to be a lot of dubious ‘rules’ whose current popularity could be perhaps be traced back the ten years or so to when ‘On Writing’ appeared — which was probably not co-incidentally a time when many creative writing classes and courses were becoming much more popular. (Disclaimer: I’m not remotely suggesting that any of my fellow students on university creative writing courses are guilty of this sort of crass simplification — they’ve all been selected by interview and on the basis of their writing ability — nor the excellent tutors. However, it doesn’t take long to come across really stupid examples of misinterpretation and perversion of King’s advice if you browse a few writing blogs or exchange experiences with other student writers.)

Possibly the most notorious example of dangerous over-simplification is King’s injunction that ‘the adverb is not your friend’. This seems quite a nuanced phrase to warn writers off using adverbs as an unnecessary crutch — for example using an adverb in a phrase like ‘he walked quickly’ rather than  ‘he dashed’ or similar or in stating something that should be obvious to the reader from the context like ‘he said threateningly’. King doesn’t say adverbs are bad — he just asks, because adverbs are modifiers of verbs, the reader to consider their use carefully — which is a variant on the good advice that every single word in a novel should have to justify its place.

However, after this fairly considered section he later casually refers to ‘all those lazy adverbs’ and — a remark that is interpreted by some as implying that any use of an adverb suggests a lazy writer. This seems to have metamophosised into a dictat that all adverbs are bad — partly because it’s a ‘rule’ so simple that idiots can follow it (‘if it’s a describing word that ends in -ly it is a sign of Bad Writing).

I found a post on a writing blog (Novelr) titled ‘Why Adverbs Suck’, which starts by taking examples of sentences with adverbs and proceeds to rewrite them minus the adverb — but usually including some extra element of detail that ‘shows’ the sentiments that the dreaded adverb ‘tells’ (illustrating that the adverb is a casualty in the philosophical battle between show and tell — see Emma Darwin’s excellent post on this issue). In most cases the sentences become considerably longer. (The insertion of such ‘reportage’ is something I tend to do — and, as it’s recently been pointed out, perhaps over-do.)

The Novelr blog post is worth following for the debate that follows in the comments in which the pro- and anti-adverb camps state their positions in the religious war. Imho those writing in defence of the adverb have more logic and evidence on their side and those arguing against it seem more motivated by dogma and simplicity. It’s asked why adjectives are far less reviled than adverbs (I’d suggest it’s because most of them don’t end with the same two letters and are less easy for pedants to identify).

I’d also suggest that a piece of writing which is marred by clumsy over-use of adverbs is also likely to be littered with unnecessary adjectives, rambling sentences, bad grammar and other evidence of incompetence or perhaps ‘first-draftiness’ (what an adjective — shows you can make one out of a noun by suffixing -ness just as you can make an adverb by adding -ly to a verb!). (Time constraints mean the stylistic quality of the writing on this blog is sadly very much an example of this first-draftiness.)

Just as bad writing isn’t just typified only by use of adverbs (or any use of the passive voice or dropping in back story or other of King’s bêtes noir) then their use in the right context can be extraordinarily skilful. On the City course, one of the students (who is a professional writer) sprinkled her prose with adverbs — in some cases they had a breathtakingly subversive influence on a sentence, or even whole paragraph.

Of course much is in the context, the talented writer on our course was writing about suburbia from an ironic narrator’s perspective, whereas Stephen King writes horror: there’s less need to describe the nuances of exactly how a character might sink an axe into someone’s head than to describe the action itself — and I don’t mean this disparagingly to the genre as I recently workshopped an action scene myself and probably followed King’s stylistic advice to the letter on that.

Stephen King says he thinks adverbs (and the passive past tense) have been designed for the ‘timid’ writer. That may be true if they’re over-used as some sort of extra insurance policy that is meant to affirm that the reader understands what the writer is trying to say. But, in an example of extreme irony given the general low opinion that King has of writing groups, courses and workshops, his uncompromising stance towards the adverb has led to a situation where it’s the timid writers who now avoid adverbs — because of the possible mauling they will receive for any use of them whatsoever if given feedback from one of the many people who has simplified King’s own stylistic advice to the point of absurdity.

Other resources, given in good faith, can also be horribly misinterpreted. In its creative writing assessment booklet, the Open University gives a list of points for students to check through before they submit their short piece of fiction for assessment (probably based on the guidance given for marking). It’s a long checklist and includes pretty commonsense questions like ‘does description utilise the senses’, ‘are metaphors or similes used’, ‘does the story move forward’ and ‘is the point of view consistent’.

The danger is that some people misconstrue this checklist (which is principally for short stories) into rules that say: all description must utililise the senses; there must be metaphors and similies; the narrative should always move quickly forward; the point-of-view must not change and so on. The last two points, while probably necessary in short stories, certainly shouldn’t be dogmatically applied to novels.  So what starts off as a useful aide-mémoire becomes a bible for the workshop pedant. Lists like this also seem to encourage people in writing workshops to read a text in a way that would be alien to any reader who might pick up a novel in a bookshop.

Imagine a contemporary creative writing workshop sent back in time to early 19th century Hampshire — considering the opening lines of a possibly timid female writer. ‘You’ll never get this published — you use an adverb only five words into the book — an example of a lazy, profligate writer. Wouldn’t it be better to write “It is a truth acknowledged’ or, better, “It is an acknowledged truth that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. The word universally is clearly unnecessary as it merely re-inforces the meaning of the word truth.’  And you wouldn’t want to be there when they start on the length of her sentences…or the pace.

One Day

‘One Day’ by David Nicholls won the Sainsbury’s Popular Fiction prize at the Galaxy National Book Awards last week. I’ve mentioned this book in passing a couple of times on this blog since I read it in the summer.

I’ve found the book interesting for a number of reasons. It has quite an interesting cover and this is also plastered with all sorts of endorsements which largely serve to position it in the market: ‘big, absorbing, smart’ (Nick Hornby); ‘incredibly moving’ (Marian Keyes); ‘totally brilliant’ (Tony Parsons); ‘fantastic Labour boom years comedy’ (the Guardian) (although less than half the relationship occurs under Blair); ‘you really do put the book down with the hallucinatory feeling that they’ve become as well known to you as your closest friends’ (Jonathan Coe). That’s just the covers, there’s plenty more epithets in the first two pages inside.

One clever thing about having these quotations on the cover is that it makes it look like a film poster. And the book is very cinematic — so much so that a film is already in production. (The author wrote some of one of the series of ‘Cold Feet’ — and this book has many echoes of that TV series.)

These endorsements are very accurate as they position the book into a sweet spot that sits between the lad-lit of Parsons and Hornby, chick-lit with a dark touch of Keyes and the modern comedy of Coe — and with a ‘bit of politics’ thrown in by the Guardian. And that’s exactly the genre — a funny book written by a man that also appeals very much to women. A look at the 262 (at time of blogging) 5 star reviews on Amazon appears to show they are predominantly penned by female names (although, of course, women do read more book than men overall).

I have a feeling that this book is significant because this genre may well be something of a new phenomenon — non-gender specific and a synthesis of lad-lit and chick-lit — whereas previously these commercial social comedy novels have tended to have been aimed at either gender. Again, the cover is significant — two silhouettes — each of a man and a woman. I has the mark of very careful marketing as if the publishers had taken a punt on a book that didn’t ‘fit’ directly into any neat category. And, if so, I’m very glad this has worked because one of the other reasons I bought and read the book is because it seemed to fit the genre I’m writing in.

The book follows two characters, Dexter and Emma, and switches between their points of view. However, my reading is that Emma is the character the author is most attached to, as I find her more realistically drawn and complex (but that might be my male POV). And I think this may tap into something mentioned by Graeme A. Thomson in his analysis of Kate Bush that I blogged on a few months ago — an innate curiosity about how the other half feels (either as intimate lover or as gender in general). I’ve noticed recently in women’s magazines how they often have a ‘typical’ man writing a column that is meant to give the readers some idea of a male perspective on an issue (although I’ve been fairly infuriated by the views of most of these supposed representative men in the few I’ve read). But I think that Nicholls has shown there’s quite a sizable market for novels written by men that perhaps don’t achieve the ultimate insight of providing an authentically female point-of-view (although if you want that authenticity then there’s plenty of female writers to pick from) but are actually more interesting and enlightening by presenting a sympathetic interpretation of what a male author considers to be a female perspective.

Actually I find that women writers are a lot less neurotic about writing from a male point-of-view — they just get on with it — but perhaps that’s maybe because they’re less likely to be challenged over its authenticity by men.

Going back to the Amazon reviews, I’m not sure if I’ve seen a novel like this that has polarised opinions so much — not so much in the star ratings but in the comments that accompany them. Many of the five star reviews say it’s one of the reader’s favourite ever books while the one-star reviewers completely damn it on many different aspects, predominantly technical.

Having come out of the City University course where I’d spent six months reading other students’ writing with a very critical eye, I’ve started to read published novels with the same perspective and, in many, I have a mental pencil which strikes out words and makes notional comments in the margins.

Reading ‘One Day’ was oddly both infuriating and quite affirming because there were passages where I thought ‘if I’d have brought that to the City workshops I’d be slagged off mercilessly’. There were the dreaded adverbs (particularly hated when applied at the end of speech tags), long passages of dialogue where despite it being between two characters (male and female) it became unclear who was speaking, some occasionally very stilted dialogue (Dexter’s mother) and in some passages the POV kept leaping all over the place (sometimes within the same paragraph) — although there were amusing occasions when I was reminded of Douglas Adams when the POV suddenly switched to a minor character.

Also, and I’ll try not to spoil the story, there’s a massive twist to the plot that relies completely on a co-incidental, totally random event — which is something all the how-to advice tells writers never to do because the plot should derive from character. However, I actually liked that twist because it was genuinely surprising and it does throw the reader — I’m not sure that it helps the remainder of the book that much but it did pack an emotional punch and that part was well-written.

Having finished and reflected on the book, I think that all of the above are perhaps why readers like it — it’s not too perfect, the imperfections perhaps bring the reader closer to the characters in an informal way. And also it shows that many creative writing class shibboleths are quite over-pedantic anyway.

I liked the book even though the characters aren’t particularly likeable — often people will criticise books by saying they need to ‘like’ the characters — but I’m not sure whether this is mainly a defensive reaction that a reader likes to use to make a statement about how they’d like to be perceived themselves.

Overall, the book succeeds because it does something that, in my experience, creative writing courses fail to emphasise — perhaps because it’s so fundamental — it makes the reader want to know what happened next. By taking a clever device of basing the action every day on 15th July from 1988 to 2007, Nicholls has (most of) the readers hooked — and it’s a life experience saga too — the characters will be just about 40 by the end of the period.

Almost all popular fiction (which is the category of award ‘One Day’ won) succeeds because readers want to find out what happened next. I find it quite odd sometimes when someone writes on my drafts (‘looking forward to what happens next time’ or ‘always like yours as it has me turning the pages’) because sometimes it seems like the readers have more interest in the events in the story than you do as a writer (perhaps because you have the burden of inventing them?) but in a workshopping session one is more likely to be praised to the skies for a nice sounding phrase or a piece of imagery.

It’s good to have this counterbalanced every so often by reading warm and funny novels like ‘One Day’ and also appreciate the genuineness of many readers’ reaction to it — and good that there are awards that recognise this too.

I also liked the use of pop music in the book too. The book’s website had a lovely feature where it listed the tracks Emma had put on compilation tapes to give to Dexter. I e-mailed the author to discuss the relative absence of Smiths’ tracks and he was a nice enough chap to send me a quick reply on the subject.

Revising Chapter Three

I’ve spent quite considerable time over the past week revising the chapter three that I read at last Monday’s workshop. As previously I’ve had lots of really useful comments written on my manuscripts by the other students. It’s also quite difficult and time-consuming to keep track of the changes marked in a dozen or so annotated scripts but I’ve been careful to go through all of the comments, note the parts where there’s obvious consensus and weigh up the different perspectives.

It’s quite difficult as people have different preferences and in more than one place I’ve had someone cross out a sentence that has been ticked or praised by another person. It’s the fourth time I’ve had the feedback now and I’m coming to know various people’s preferences, which unsurprisingly tend to mirror their own writing style (lean and taut in some cases, lyrical and colourful in others, empathetic and intense and so on). Having had a few days to mull it over, I’ve probably found the harshest feedback the most useful. I eliminated about 100 words out of the original 2,600 mainly by deleting adverbs and unnecessary bits of speech, such as ‘not really’. Some of the mistakes that I had in the extract are pretty obvious errors in retrospect. My thirteen year old daughter saw Rick’s corrections and told me off about ‘stared briefly’ as well — ‘you can’t stare briefly’.

I also managed to restructure some of the more troublesome sentences with some help from people’s suggestions. For example, this long sentence now reads better than previously, although I’m still not sure if I have it completely right: ‘As she breathed, her chest pushed forward and the outline of her breasts stretched the previously slack material, jolting James a little as he realised that hidden underneath her sexless clothing was a distinctly female form.’ (I’ve just revised it yet again while posting it here.) This was the passage was that caused the previously-mentioned controversy about James — whether he was outrageously judgemental about Kim’s appearance or just ‘doing what men do’.

While I’ve pruned it quite a bit I’ve also added in about 50 extra words to address other concerns. One was about emphasising the Kim’s German background. I’ve replaced one of James’ slightly lame phrases of approbation with ‘Wunderbar’ (actually the name of a Cadbury’s chocolate bar on sale in Germany). I also had Kim respond to James’ declaration of passion for food’s favours and textures by her saying that it didn’t really apply to German food — all sauerkraut and currywurst. (I’m quite an expert on the sort of food Germans eat, having had countless meals in the works canteen of a DAX-30 listed company and eaten in restaurants all over Germany as well as eaten plenty of beer-soaking-up food in Biergartens and Weinachtmarkts.)

One question I have that I’d be interested in having answered is whether if you’re writing a German noun in an English piece of writing whether you retain the initial capital letter — as in Biergarten.

While revising Chapter Three, I went back to Chapter Two of ‘The Angel just to check for continuity and it’s a good job that I did. Alison marked this over the Easter holidays and perhaps it’s no wonder she commented that the payment of the money for the painting was too long and drawn out in  Chapter Three: it had already happened in the Chapter Two that she’d read. She must have had at least a sense of deja vu.

Alison and a couple of other people also wanted Kim a little more agitated and stressed. I’m not sure if I’ve achieved that but I wanted to try and give James the effect of disarming other people — being quite good at putting people at their ease, mainly through his ability to not worry too much when he’s making a prick of himself. (I have an inspiration for this in mind — a famous TV presenter whose Tweets I follow and with whom I occasionally converse myself via Twitter.) I’m not sure about whether I’ve tightened up the pace a lot. This was something Alison commented on after hearing it read aloud but others had said it had gone quickly when read somewhere like a plane (good sign perhaps?).

I had quite a strange attitude to workshopping this piece. It was a piece I hoped I’d write past and so have something more filled with action to present to the group. When people were critical of certain aspects I was a bit non-plussed but I’d not had particularly high expectations for it. Perhaps I was hoping to ‘wing it’ a bit and hope that this part didn’t get scrutinised too hard — but found I was being picked up on things I’d tried to avoid thinking about, which was quite uncomfortable but necessary. In the end, I think I’ve got a pretty decent 2,500 now — quite a lot better than before the workshop and something that will better stand on its own rather than be a bit of a dump for setting up plot elements.

I’ve found it pretty difficult to get started again after this — partly events over the Bank Holiday (potatoes crying out to be planted) and the election is an incredible distraction. I’ve been staying up too late after debates and on other nights to take in all the coverage — good research for Burying Bad News, though.

My Penultimate Workshop Reading

I read out my Chapter Three at our first evening workshop last night. I’d actually forgotten many of my misgivings about the piece and now I wish I’d ploughed ahead more over Easter and been able to submit the next chapter — which will move fast from place-to-place and start to build a bit of intimacy between James and Kim.

The first two chapters were comparatively much faster paced and had a lot more action as well. However, it seemed to be necessary to use the third chapter to slow the pace to seed a lot of plot elements and themes: Kim was given more reasons to get away (health, debts), it established James liking of cooking and explained why Kim would be a good person to try and get to run a pub. I also tried to dampen the reader’s expectations of a possible romantic involvement between the two in the next chapters.

I was concerned that I might have been accused of homophobic stereotyping as I added at a late stage an idea that James might think Kim was a lesbian, based on the ‘a little knowledge’ principle. I actually did quite a bit of research on body piercing (which James had supposedly read about in Time Out) and one person wrote on the script — ‘like a Prince Albert’. Obviously Kim wouldn’t have one of these (click if you want your eyes to water like James’ did) but she may have slightly less spectacular piercings. (I did once know someone who had a Prince Albert.) There was a discussion about whether James would be quite so ignorant of gay culture as perhaps he came over but no-one objected to sowing this seed of doubt in his mind as a plot device, which was a relief. I’m still not sure whether I’ll continue with it but my objective is to have them both bond together without cranking up the sexual aspect.

I took the attitude that if I sent out a piece of 2,600 words that was basically just two characters in a confined space then I’d be doing well just to sustain people’s interest to the end.

I deliberated about sending out one of the first two chapters, which had both come back from Alison with positive feedback, but I thought that might have the effect of both wasting her time by going over familiar work and it would also perhaps be fishing for compliments on work I knew she generally liked.

Maybe I should have done this as, in the event, I felt I got quite a negative reaction to this new piece from Alison. I think her comments were generally fair in that the piece was probably too long to sustain pace and that Kim’s voice didn’t come over as distinctly German — I was a bit annoyed with myself that at a late stage I’d cut and pasted a bit of Kim speaking German (translating musical chairs) out of the extract it  to use in the next chapter. However, at least one person had picked up on parts of the dialogue where she is struggling to find the correct vocabulary and the speech patterns of young Germans who are fluent in English are not actually that different to many native speakers — they’re quite close to American English.

So I think the way that I’d read out the extract probably did no justice to any subtleties in the dialogue.  And I’m not much good at reading aloud anyway so me rushing it must have been really bad — and I was hampered a bit by wearing contact lenses that are not good for reading close up — at times I was struggling to read my 12 point Times New Roman, even though I’d written it myself!

Paradoxically the pace would probably have come over better if I’d have added in some dramatic pauses and the like. On the other hand, I was quite struck by the number of comments, both written and spoken, that said they’d read through it quickly and easily and thought it had a good pace but then seemed to have second thoughts on hearing it read out.

I’m not sure it’s going to help people write novels, though, if we get encouraged to write prose that sounds better read out loud than on the page — you could understand that with poetry or drama. I’m a bit perplexed by that aspect of the course — it’s not much good for someone writing prose fiction if someone says ‘now I’ve heard you read it out then it seems better’ as the ordinary reader will never hear it read, they just have to go with what’s on the page. Perhaps it’s to prepare us for the reading event at the end of the course?

An average reader isn’t going to read the prose three times over in order to fully appreciate it or have the experience of the dialogue being brought to life by a lively authorial reading. That’s why I find the written comments enormously useful as they generally tend to be more individual observations. I find we don’t really get long enough to hear others’ comments and my tactic is to hear people out and listen as much as possible, although I was dying to say ‘yes, but wait for the next bit’ or ‘that was explained in the chapter before’ a few times.

I respect everyone’s opinions, though I don’t necessarily agree with everything. I think I was quite loose with the use of adverbs in some parts of the extract but I’m not sure that a zero tolerance policy towards them is entirely necessary — sometimes they can be used very effectively in the free indirect style to establish a character’s POV.  I think perhaps I have a prose style which makes the odd bit of ornamentation stand out.

One point I was very pleased about was that the rest of the students were very divided about James. One or two people loathed him with a passion while others thought he was potentially quite nice. Some thought him a blundering clown and others a straight banker. This shows that he’s got contradictions and people seem to be reacting to him like a real person. Also, a lot of that chapter was very close to his point-of-view and some objected to him looking at Kim supposedly as a sexual object and how dare he make judgements over her appearance — but this is all going on in his mind. Unless he’s being very unsubtle in his observations, she isn’t going to know any of this unless he cares to tell her. The controversy is such that I even got an e-mail of support from someone the day afterwards in support of him.

Skewering the Adverb — Deconstructing My Text

It seems that many of the writers who provided the Guardian’s Top Tens share the hatred of the poor old descriptive adverb that is also drilled into students on creative writing classes. (Looking at my Oxford A-Z of grammar I was surprised to see that many of the functional pieces of English Language are classified in the adverb family — such as conjuncts, disjuncts, places and times. I don’t think even Elmore Leonard could do without those.)

I agree it’s often the refuge of writers who are trying too hard or are perhaps writing too quickly to think of a better verb (e.g. ‘walked quickly’ rather than ‘rushed’ or ‘dashed’ or ‘ran’ or ‘skipped’ or various other phrases). However, they have been around in the English Language since before Shakespeare (who wasn’t afraid of throwing a few adverbs into his own works himself). I guess it’s because many adverbs are quite lazy modifications of other types of word that they tend to jar but I don’t think a writer can really banish all instances of words like ‘quietly’, ‘deeply’ or ‘vainly’.

I started to get curious, and not a little paranoid, about how many adverbs I used myself so I took the 2,572 words of my reading for Saturday’s tutorial and crunched them into a word frequency counter on the Internet. It wasn’t a particularly sophisticated one as it couldn’t deal with apostrophes so there were a few peculiar words like ‘t or ‘d which inflated the word count artificially.

Having identified the frequency with which I used certain words (always useful to see if I’m overusing something). I then pasted the output into an Excel spreadsheet and spent a very boring 45 minutes coding each of the 984 different words I’d used into noun (including proper noun), verb, adjective, adverb and other (the vast collection of articles, pronouns, conjunctions and so on — the ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘there’, ‘now’, ‘then’, ‘next’ and many others). There was some arbitrary classification of homographs (words that are the same but have different meanings) and more than a few mistakes along the way but the general results are probably fairly accurate.

The results were:

Nouns: 578 (including 350 different words)

Verbs: 519 (303)

Adjectives: 242 (184)

Adverbs: 13 (13)

Other: 1316 (134)

See the pie chart for percentages:

Lexical Analysis of Extract
Lexical Analysis of Extract

What’s quite remarkable is that my use of adjectives is almost 20 times my use of adverbs. I only use 13 adverbs — which is 0.5% of the word total. None of the adverbs is used more than once. (This is according to my classification of adverb — it could be argued there are a few adjective in there which are used in the manner of adverbs). So, in this piece at least, I’ve pared down their use quite a bit though, no doubt, I’ll still be picked up (probably rightly) for having used an adverb where a verb might have done better.

Now I’ve realised I’m not a massive over-user of adverbs, I’m now alarmed at my huge use of adjectives. Is this normal? I’ve got a ratio of over two adjectives for every five nouns. However, 146 out of the 184 adjectives are used only once — so that’s not too repetitious — but the total sounds like rather a lot to me. I’m also curious at the ratio of nouns to verbs — I’m almost at a 1:1 ratio. I suppose that’s understandable when you consider that I classified the likes of ‘is’, ‘are’ and ‘was’ as verbs (which they are but they don’t seem very writerly words).

I’m also rather ashamed that almost half the words are ‘other’ — the bits of plumbing that connect the more interesting material together. Does that mean I’ve got a really waffly style — full of ‘as’, ‘into’, ‘the’, ‘on’, ‘with’ and so on. These are the types of words that are ruthlessly pruned out of poetry — and one modest claim to fame I have is that I’m a published poet. Time for a breakdown?

Of course, this is all not much use unless I compare it with something else. Perhaps if I go back a few years and pick some less experienced writing that I’ve done I could compare it or maybe I can find some text file of a great novel by a famous writer (in a similar style) and crunch that to compare.

I’ll attach the pdf file of the whole word breakdown here. Word Breakdown — The Accounts Summary 220210 I’d be interested to know if anyone would like to take the words and assemble them into something completely different.