The Limnades

I wrote another 1274 words yesterday in "The Limnades," for a total of 2527 words. So, I’m now about 1/3d done.

I fed the content of my story into Flesh, to take a gander at the numbers. (Flesh is a "readability" calculator.) My numbers are:

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 3.22
Flesch Reading Ease Level: 89.00
Words: 2,604¹
Sentences: 272
Syllables: 3,328
Average Syllables per Word: 1.28
Average Words per Sentence: 9.57

Those are excellent numbers. The most important numbers are the first two and the last two. (In addition, the average number of characters per word for my story is 4.09 — 10,340 characters / 2527 words = 4.09 — also a great number.) Several months ago, I read a book in which the writer compared writing samples from several best selling novelists. Here are a few examples, to compare their numbers to mine:

John Grisham
Characters per Word: 4.58
Flesch Reading Ease: 72.34
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 6.3

Stephen King
Characters per Word: 4.28
Flesch Reading Ease: 84.34
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 4.52

Anna Quindlen
Characters per Word: 4.19
Flesch Reading Ease: 81.77
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 5.33

Elmore Leonard
Characters per Word: 4.14
Flesch Reading Ease: 89.53
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 2.68

Wallace Stegner
Characters per Word: 4.28
Flesch Reading Ease: 80.82
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 4.9

G D Townshende
Characters per Word: 4.09
Flesch Reading Ease: 89.00
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 3.22

I've done this before. I wanted to do it again, however. Average characters per word, I beat them all. Flesch Reading Ease, Leonard beat me. Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Leonard won. (Leonard wrote Get Shorty and the short story, "3:10 to Yuma." Both were turned into movies.) All these writers are best selling novelists. Stegner's novel, Angle of Repose, won the Pulitzer. Quindlen is a journalist turned novelist, and she's a damned good, too. I've read a book or two of hers. She once voiced the opinion that most novels are 20% too long. Now that's a journalist for you! Journalists contend with editors whose concerns are breaking news, deadlines, and making sure that stories fit in the space allotted to them.

The only thing I can't compare against those writers is the percentage of passive vs. active sentences. I don't have the software to make that comparison. However, I believe I would compete very well with all of them. It's no guarantee that I'd become a best selling novelist, or that I'd win the Pulitzer, but with stats like those I think I'd stand a chance of selling better than many a novelist who is already being published.

In other news, I recently learned about a new online science fiction/fantasy publisher I didn’t know about before, Clarkesworld Magazine. I read through their submission guidelines. My current story is too long for them. Their lengths are 1000-4000 words. They pay 10¢ per word. That’s pretty damned good. Qualifies them as a professional market in SFWA’s eyes. Will have to keep them in mind for future stories.

In fact, I've learned about several online science fiction and fantasy markets today. Very cool.

¹ I don't understand how Flesh calculates this word-count. Mellel, my word processor, shows a total 2,553 words, and this includes info found on the manuscript's first page — name, address, phone number, social security number (needed for tax purposes), word count, story title, byline, etc. — that is not included in the story's word count.

All the additional info on the first page of my manuscript adds up to 26 words. So, 2553 - 26 = 2527 total word count. Somehow, though, Flesh finds another 51 words in a document that doesn't include those additional 26 words. That leads me to believe that it counts spaces between words, not the words themselves. Word counters that count spaces instead of actual words can't distinguish between symbols or typographical conventions. For example, the typographical convention used in a manuscript to show em-dashes looks like this: "I wanted to kill her -- I didn't care that she was my mother's sister -- and it would've been completely satisfying to do so, but I resisted the urge." Counting spaces results in additional words being counted, even when it's not actually a word.

Mellel counts words and numbers as words and not symbols — e.g., the hyphens used to indicate em-dashes, or the hash mark used to indicate a scene break. I've removed all those symbols from my .txt file and Flesh continues to give me the same numbers.
Odd that it comes up with a greater word count, but I'm not about to obsess over this. Ultimately, actual word counts mean nothing. The actual word count is for my own use. Publishers want white-space word counts. They want to know how much paper will be used. The white-space word count for my story currently stands at 2,950.

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