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    « Writing Commercial Fiction? | Main | My Book Is Finished...But Wait! »

    Just What a Writer Needs - An Algorithm

    “There’s a sucker born every minute,” said P.T. Barnum. And this afternoon I found out I was one.

    While working on my last post encouraging writers to get their books finished, I came across a website called Is My Book Done?, created by Boston based writer and multimedia developer Brendan Gannon.

    The site offers a special tool BookCheck. It explains, “BookCheck is a tool that scans your writing and determines whether it’s done.”

    Ridiculous, said I, no software program can make that kind of judgment.

    I moved on and finished my post, but I kept thinking about the site. So I went back to check it out. There was a blank square with an instruction, “Paste your book, or an excerpt of it (we recommend at least one page) into the text box and click the “Check It” button. That’s it!”

    The site explained, “BookCheck uses a sophisticated algorithm based on predictive models to determine whether your book is done. Because it extrapolates from the text you give it, it works just as well with an excerpt as with the whole text.”

    I had a draft of a book on a storage hard drive, so I plugged in a chapter. And hit the “Check It!” button. A moment later a message appeared, “This Book is Not Done. Maybe it needs more character development? More conflict? Get some tips on where you might go from here.”

    Okay. How did it make that judgment?

    I decided to see what happened if I tried a book that definitely was done. I plugged in the first page of The Great Gatsby, hit Check It! and got the same message, “This Book is Not Done. Maybe it needs more character development? More conflict? Get some tips on where you might go from here.”

    I was tempted to say, “Wow! I’m in the same class as F. Scott Fitzgerald,” but instead I looked at the tips. It was a lame list of a dozen items. The punch line came at the end of the list following an author’s protest over the advice that the book wasn’t finished, “But I need to turn it in to my editor/agent/boss!

    Happens all the time. You might have to stop writing it and hand it off, but it will never really be done.”


    Satire is a wonderful thing when done well. The site was fun. If you visit, by all means check out the Terms of Use. For once they are worth reading.

    Nice job, Brendan!

    Photo by Tim Morgan attribution under Creative Commons.

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