Category Archives: Writing

Publishing narrative = cattle auction

There are a few sites out there where authors of narrative fiction (among other media types) can submit their work for evaluation:

are two that I’m familiar with.

The problem with these sites, and the problem is systemic within the industry, is that the process of connecting authors with publishers is upside down. It’s inverted, inside out.

It’s easiest to picture the situation through analogy: enter the cattle ranch.

Imagine if every cattle rancher had to, one-at-a-time, schlep their cattle in a truck to every buyer of beef, haggle with that buyer, and if the cattle were not up to the desired grade or the price was not agreeable, the rancher would move onto the next buyer.

And the next. And the next. Talk about inefficient!

Instead, (and this is one of the ways it’s done), ranchers take their cattle to an auction. At these auctions buyers from all around congregate to bid on cattle. Numerous ranchers present their herds and buyers make bids.

Cattle, i.e. narrative content, from many ranches (authors), arrives at the auction (some new service yet to be created or identified), and buyers (publishers) peruse the offerings and purchase what suits them.

That’s the way it should work for submitting narrative fiction or artful media. Content should enter an auction to which publishers have subscribed. If a publisher only wants adult mystery, then there will be an auction for that genre. When new content is created by authors and artists they can submit their work to the service which holds it until the auction. Or, if the creator chooses, have their work enter the always-on-auction where content is collected and metadata about it then channels said media to publishers who have voiced interest in the media’s genre.

As it stands, this process is so backwards and contradictory, quality authors get ignored unless they schlep their content from publisher to publisher. And publishers miss out on authors who have great content but who ignore or simply skip the publisher out of ignorance or lack of time or awareness. needs to get built. Who’s with me?

Now vs Then

Flashbacks in narrative may be a necessary device to retain the attention of a reader.


Harold crept to the edge on hands and knees, slabs of shale cracking and shifting beneath him. He had to look, he had to know. The closer he got the more he could see; the base of the cliff, strewn with boulders and scree, came within view; the corner of a pink jacket, the sole of a boot — the new ones she’d bought just last month. “Oh god! Oh my god, Mary, no, no…”

They’d decided that this Thanksgiving, rather than gorge themselves as Westerners did, the holiday becoming a celebration of gluttony rather than a ritual of thanks, they would travel somewhere. Travel and hike a few of the peaks they’d hiked years ago during their courtship.

Atop the cliff Harold lay on his belly, his arms spread wide while sobs wracked his body. He’d warned her not to stray too close. He could tell that what looked flat and inviting, like a table perched upon a mountaintop, was probably unstable. “Step away, please, Mary. Yes, the view is incredible.”

That morning, with daypacks and a thermos of steaming coffee, they’d set off from the trailhead, up through the pines and fir, and within an hour had hit the switchbacks. Mary kept count, “Fourteen, Fifteen…” as we zigzagged our way up the trail that rose a thousand feet in a mile.

Harold edged a little closer, just a inch, or two. She couldn’t have survived such a fall.

He thought back on their thirty years together. They’d had no children, and Ricky, their poodle, had died the year before. I could follow her. I will follow her.

He stood then, carefully, Why be careful? He gazed out over the hazy blue mountains, rolling like waves. The sky a piercing blue with a pair of clouds, puffs atop the highest peaks, looked down on him. He stared at the body of his wife; he could see her fully now, her pink jacket, her grey braid, khaki pockets stuffed with energy bars. He leaned into the wind blowing in his face and urged himself over.

As he fell, as gravity grabbed ahold of him and his mind whirled in the fall, he forgot all about why he was falling; the terror reached up and seized him by the throat. In the last half second before his bone crushing impact, his eyes focused on Mary’s twisted body. In the last quarter second he remembered why he had jumped. And just before his own body crumpled into the jagged rocks Mary lifted her head and smiled.


In this piece we time travel back multiple times to enrich the current events of the story.

The human mind, in and of itself, time travels. We think about now, what we’re doing, what we need to do, and what we did. What happened yesterday, last year. What may happen tomorrow or next week. We skip around in time within our minds.

A story that is purely linear in temporal treatment may feel dull to us. A story told 1,2,3… does not enjoin our own tendency to jump around in time. A story that, like the above, dances on the face of the clock, on the calendar, keeps our minds — the time focused creatures that we are — engaged.

Writing ruined reading

I’m trying to become a writer. Fiction novels and short stories.

I wrote a novel last summer and the process was cathartic. But ruinous.

What happened was that although my story held merit, the writing itself was sophomoric — as one might expect given my limited training. So, I endeavored to teach myself how to write; to be come a critical editor of my own work; to evaluate writing — of all sources and authors.

And now that’s all I can do. When I read ANYTHING — I’m an editor. I don’t get taken up by the story, I don’t get attached to the characters, I critique everything I read.

And it sucks.

Not the writing, although, yeah much of what I read needs serious editing (including my own work). No, what sucks is that my desire to become a writer has warped my ability to be a reader.

Before all this, I used to pickup and read novels all the time. I never really evaluated them and their writing styles. I could immerse myself into those stories. Lose myself.

Now, all I do is analyze.

DO NOT TELL — SHOW us how she cried, sat, danced, ate, slept…

Use of passive vs active voice (over use of the word ‘was’ or ‘were’ or ‘is’).

Use of flag words: very, quite, always, suddenly, quickly, and all the tiny obvious verbs (get, got, do, did, put, walked, went, gone, run, ran, see, saw, crossed, turned)

Adverbs — use sparingly (ha!).

A funny list to the cause:

1 Avoid alliteration always.
2 Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3 The passive voice is to be avoided.
4 Avoid cliches like the plague. They’re old hat.
5 It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
6 Writers should never generalize.
Seven Be consistent.
8 Don’t use more words than necessary. It’s highly superfluous.
9 Be more or less specific.
10 Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
I’ve become a pretty good critic. But at the expense of enjoying my precious story time reads. And I don’t know if I can ever undo the damage.


We live in a world of opposites, black and white, up and down, in and out, over and under, but with an infinite array of variations between. Grey, the blending of black and white on a continuum of scale, is the perfect example. Things are rarely black or white, but grey.

What about simple vs complex? Is everything a mixture of the two? Something is rarely only simple just as it might be singularly complex. Or more accurately, something simple to you might be complex to me.

There’s a word we hear often which many people use incorrectly: simplistic. Often when people call something or some process ‘simplistic’ what they are generally applying is that they thing the subject is simple — to them. Simplistic is much more insidious. Its origins are strange, having to do with plants, but today, simplistic generally means that you’ve assigned a theory or answer that OVER simplifies the solution; so much so that that your solution is now wrong, or at least incorrect on certain levels.

I think of simplistic as ‘simplifying to the point of error.”

Today, as I thought on this for no other reason than my mind does such things at times, I thought that everyone’s interpretation of the world — everything in the world — contained a degree of simplistic reasoning. To make our way in the world we must assume much. It’s just the way it is. We assume carrots are good to eat and most people’s assumptions about that would be simplistic. When we think we know something we undoubtedly only know some of it, rarely if ever *all* of it.  At some point our understanding of a thing will drift into the simplistic realm.

As I contemplated this I imagined the opposite of this. If a thing had so much white in it and so much black then it was grey. If we think of white as simplistic treatment, what would be the black side? I went searching. Nothing came up. So I dreamed up a new word: Complexic.

If simplistic meant simplified to the point of error then complexic might mean complex to the point of perfect understanding.

If the world if full of opposites, simple to complex, and our understandings of the world fall on a continuation between those two, at some point our knowledge or beliefs shift from simplistic to simple to complex to complexic. That is:

  • Our understanding is primitive to the point of being wrong.
  • Our understanding is simple but not wrongly so.
  • Our understanding is thorough, absorbing the complexity of a subject to where we generally understand it quite fully.
  • Our understanding is so complete that, for this topic, we’ve reached what we might call a topical nirvana, masters of the subject.

Do you have a complexic understanding of something or some process in the world?

The four act Bond

How to write a thrilling story.

A typical Bond 007 style sequence:

(jeopardy + conflict + risk = penalty/reward) +
(jeopardy + conflict + risk = reward) +
(jeopardy + conflict + risk = penalty) +
big jeopardy + big conflict + big risk = final reward

Some family, data or city is in jeopardy.
Bond arrives and conflict ensues.
At a crux in the conflict Bond makes a rash decision:
He partially succeeds but must pay an unexpected price. (Bond is fallible.)

Some greater entity is at risk.
Bond, known to the villain, cat and mouses in conflict.
Bond, attempting to redeem his initial failure, takes a greater risk:
He succeeds to acclaim. (Bond is arrogant.)

Bond is now in jeopardy along with a state or country or system.
Villain escalates conflict with Bond and the system.
Bond risks yet again, with hubris from prior success:
He fails, loses almost all, humiliated. (Bond is humble.)

World is in peril now.
Bond fights not only villain but the system too.
Bond risks all in last ditch attempt to beat villain and justify prior actions:
He succeeds, world is saved, Bond is hero, villains beware. (Bond is resilient.)

ALANN – Auto Lit Analysis Neural Net

ALANN – the automated literary analysis neural network idea posed here some months ago (  “might” be realizable to some degree without the need for a DeepMind neural network.

There are no doubt certain aspects of writing (that this author is being slowly made aware of) that can be extracted as metrics from any writing.

Here are a few.

  • Word counts and the ratio of those counts
    • Verb count
    • Adverb count
    • Adjective count
    • Proper name counts
    • Single word counts
  • Comma count
  • Character length of words
  • Sentence length and sentence complexity
  • Quote counts and their dispersion throughout the text
  • Certain word usages, active vs passive voice
  • Jaggedness, how choppy is the the dialog vs narrative

Regarding word counts, what are the ratio’s of some word counts to others? What about common literary words vs the total count? Filter words, decorative, embellishment words vs the total?

Here’s some data (the means to acquire this data is below).

Let’s consider comma count to sentence count (Comma/Sent) as a measurement of “literary” intent. The higher the number the more lofty the writing (or the more Victorian…)

Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations had a Comma/Sent ratio of 200%. There were twice as many commas as periods.

Jack London’s White Fang, on the other hand, had a ratio of only 101%, there were about as many commas as periods.

If we examine the other writers and their works, this simple metrics *seems* to correlate with our expectations. HG Wells, Burroughs have lower “literary” quotients than Jane Austen or Herman Melville.

So, are there other factors that we can use to investigate the literary vs genre vs popular vs what-have-you aspects of novels? And, primarily, can we build a system that can judge them?

Title Author Comma/Sent Excl/Sent Semi/Sent Dial/Sent Sing/Word
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain 164.99% 10.41% 31.99% 32.51% 2.50%
Great Expectations Charles Dickens 200.07% 11.56% 14.75% 46.07% 2.02%
Blue Across the Sea Dave Cline 93.06% 2.44% 0.76% 32.48% 4.02%
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen 147.77% 8.07% 24.89% 28.58% 2.05%
Moby Dick Herman Melville 256.49% 23.57% 56.09% 19.49% na
Tarzan of the apes Edgar R Burroughs 129.84% 3.99% 6.82% 22.90% 3.86%
Sense and Sensibilities Jane Austen 200.85% 11.32% 32.03% 31.40% 2.07%
Island of Dr. Moreau HG Wells 115.16% 6.78% 12.83% 24.77% 6.15%
White Fang Jack London 101.10% 1.98% 4.81% 10.27% 4.15%


Here’s a site I found to help kickstart this concept:

If we go to the Gutenberg Project and pick some books, let’s start with Adventure of Huckleberry Finn:

What is the comparison of the word “was” to the total word count?

Order Unfiltered word count Occurrences Percentage
1. and 6350 5.6714
2. the 4779 4.2683
3. i 3270 2.9206
4. a 3150 2.8134
5. to 2934 2.6205
6. it 2326 2.0774
7. was 2069 1.8479
8. he 1676 1.4969
9. of 1633 1.4585
10. in 1433 1.2799
11. you 1360 1.2147
12. that 1083 0.9673
13. but 1035 0.9244
14. so 961 0.8583
15. on 880 0.7860
16. up 861 0.7690
17. all 852 0.7610
18. we 848 0.7574
19. for 843 0.7529
20. me 823 0.7351

Now, what of the total single use words?

There were 2752 words used exactly once of a total of 110016 words which gives us a percentage of 2.5014%

Using this tool:

110016 words
554985 characters (with space)
450511 characters (without space)
104474 spaces
421151 letters
14 numbers
29346 others
2509 blank lines
11430 line breaks

Punctuation marks:
4870 times . (dot)
8035 times , (comma) commas to periods ratio percentage: 164.98%
729 times ? (question mark)
507 times ! (exclamation mark) written energy bangs per period: 10.41%
426 times : (colon)
1558 times ; (semicolon) semicolons as a sign of sentence count: 31.99%
2973 times – (hyphen)
0 times / (slash)
3166 times ” (quote) dialog statements as a % of sentence count: 32.50%
5004 times ‘ (single quote)

Now, let’s test another literary work… Great Expectations

Order Unfiltered word count Occurrences Percentage
1. the 8145 4.3638
2. and 7092 3.7996
3. i 6475 3.4690
4. to 5152 2.7602
5. of 4437 2.3772
6. a 4047 2.1682
7. in 3026 1.6212
8. that 2986 1.5998
9. was 2836 1.5194
10. it 2670 1.4305
11. he 2206 1.1819
12. you 2186 1.1712
13. had 2093 1.1213
14. my 2069 1.1085
15. me 1998 1.0704
16. his 1860 0.9965
17. as 1774 0.9504
18. with 1760 0.9429
19. at 1637 0.8770
20. on 1420 0.7608

Unique word use count 3723 of 184378 words = 2.0192

184378 words
973823 characters (with space)
805308 characters (without space)
168515 spaces
761634 letters
5 numbers
43669 others
4125 blank lines
20011 line breaks

Punctuation marks:
8522 times . (dot)
17050 times , (comma) commas to periods ratio percentage:  200.07%
1216 times ? (question mark)
985 times ! (exclamation mark) written energy bangs per period: 11.55%
105 times : (colon)
1257 times ; (semicolon) semicolons as a % of sentence count: 14.75%
3483 times – (hyphen)
0 times / (slash)
7852 times ” (quote)  dialog statements as a % of sentence count: 46.06%
2512 times ‘ (single quote)

And here’s the novel I wrote Blue Across the Sea

Order Unfiltered word count Occurrences Percentage
1. the 6772 7.8213
2. and 2641 3.0502
3. to 2353 2.7176
4. a 1808 2.0881
5. of 1807 2.0870
6. he 1028 1.1873
7. you 1001 1.1561
8. tillion 974 1.1249
9. in 962 1.1111
10. i 839 0.9690
11. it 839 0.9690
12. his 796 0.9193
13. that 695 0.8027
14. with 650 0.7507
15. they 632 0.7299
16. as 623 0.7195
17. from 613 0.7080
18. her 588 0.6791
19. we 534 0.6167
20. up 514 0.5936

(“was” came in down around 280 instances…)

Unique word count 3469 out of 86219 = 4.0234

86219 words
475623 characters (with space)
391243 characters (without space)
84380 spaces
370677 letters
4 numbers
20562 others
156 blank lines
2460 line breaks

Punctuation marks:
6595 times . (dot)
6137 times , (comma) commas to periods ratio percentage:  93.05%
644 times ? (question mark)
161 times ! (exclamation mark) written energy bangs per period: 2.44%
11 times : (colon)
50 times ; (semicolon) semicolons as a % of sentence count: 0.7581%
348 times – (hyphen)
1 times / (slash)
4284 times ” (quote) dialog statements as a % of sentence count: 32.47%
1912 times ‘ (single quote)

Here we will be adding additional literary works: