I felt self-doubt beginning to creep in so I did what I could before it paralyzed me; I printed my first chapters and started marking them up, making them stronger. I’m happy with what I am seeing, excited at things I’d forgotten, horrified at times, too. It’s good though. I am happy with what I have… I think.
Out for a stroll on the internet I came across a self-doubt crusher, at least it helped me yesterday. Hemingway Editor claims to be "like a spell-checker, but for style". Have you tried the app? Basically, you plug in what you’ve written (or you can write directly in the app), then click “edit” and it will tell you basic things about your piece; readability, when you have sentences written wonky and hard to read, when you’ve used words or phrases that have simpler alternatives and shows them to you, it highlights all those pesky adverbs, and highlights all your passive text.
Ever the skeptic, I looked for reviews. I found one blasting the Hemingway software basically because of the readability stats it gives. Back when I learned about writing I was taught to write at a 9th grade level in order for every reader to feel comfortable with the piece (in accordance with The Flesch–Kincaid readability levels). “Pity the reader” Kurt Vonnegutt says; don’t make them work harder than they have to. I agree. I read for relaxation and because I chose not to do something else. Don't make me suffer. If there is a simple way to say something, that’s how it should be said.
The reviewer of the Hemingway App was appalled that Out of Africa by Isak Dinisen only scored an “ok” by the app because it had a high readability score (grade 12). S/He went on to point out another work that was given a score of grade 14. Then went on to further torment the site for giving a “good” rating (grade 9) to a passage missing words. The software clearly does not proofread, and it doesn’t state that it does.
My take is that this reviewer needs to a hug. S/He seems to be missing the point of the Hemingway program. It is basing the “okay” and “good” scores on readability below 9th grade level and above. If you write higher than this, and do it well, don’t be offended when software programmed to work a certain way points out your high level of writing then says your work is only “ok” Some people. My goodness. This is the kind of person I wouldn’t get on well with in a critique group. In fact s/he would probably cringe at my attempt to write light new adult fiction.
I plugged in a few paragraphs at first, just to see. Then I copy and pasted the entire manuscript. I was happy with the results. It didn’t say I’d just completed the greatest novel ever written and that it could not be improved, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It gave me a boost of confidence, and that boost has helped deflect Mr. Doubt for another day. It also pointed out places I need to look at in my work that I might not have thought about.
I could not have found a writer friend to read 100 pages of rough draft and give me valuable suggestions for free and in an instant like the Hemingway Editor did. I rather enjoyed using the software and I'll use it again.
Every suggestion is a tool of some sort. Some you will use, and some you won't. Some suggestions you may not use now, but later you may use it on a different piece. I like exposure to the craft. Try out the software and let me know what you thought of it. http://www.hemingwayapp.com/beta/index.html