Apr 10 2011

Word clouds and other musings


Still trying to hunker down in my non-DayJob times. The worst of the overtime seems to be over and done (unless a hurricane or late blizzard hits New England — the downside of working for a disaster recovery company), and so more writing time seems to be bubbling to the surface.

Seekrit Project still in progress… I have a week’s vacation coming up, but I plan NOT TO WAIT for that time, but continue to dig in, so that by then (pleasepleaseplease) I could use the time for rewrites, and for figuring out where the hell to sell this thing.

Meanwhile, during my mental-decompression internet surf sessions, I was led to the Wordle website, which creates word-clouds from text you supply.

(Ahem: For my non-techno friends, here’s how you make a word-cloud: 1. Count all the words in a text, skipping words like a, and, the, etc. 2. Make the size of the word proportional to how often it appears. 3. Arrange artistically. 4. Admire.)

So, well, had to do it, right?

Here’s The Steerswoman (click to see big versions!)

click to see full sized!

And here’s The Outskirter’s Secret


I’d do The Lost Steersman and The Language of Power too, but I can’t at the moment put my hand on the text files. I’ve got ’em, but apparently not on this computer, and I don’t want to go on a search through various backups right now. As this would take time. From writing.

However, Amazon has some interesting stats from The Language of Power .

These, for example, are “statistically improbable phrases” identified in that book (compared to other Amazon books that have the “search inside” option):

copper gaze, dragon fields, handkerchief boy, lap board, copper eyes, head groom, star parties, bucket line, small dragon, dragon eyes

Apparently other books that have dragons have BIG dragons, and the author is not all that interested in their eyes (possibly more interested in their flames!).

Amazon also has a Concordance, which is like unto a word cloud, but with only words and no cloud, and not pretty. Plus: various readability indexes (apparently, a sixth-grade education is sufficient to understand this book), and my personal favorites: words per dollar (9,572) and words per ounce (9,449).

Other musings:

Easiest thing in the world to write: Conversations taking place over tea, followed closely by conversations taking place over beer.

Most boring thing in the world to read: Conversations taking place over tea, followed closely by conversations taking place over beer (the possibility of a fistfight does exist in the latter).

Quickest way to increase your word-count: include conversations taking place over tea, or similar ones taking place over beer.

Quickest way to improve your story’s pacing: remove the conversations taking place over tea or beer.

Most interesting thing you can do with the above information: Take the conversation that would have taken place over beer, and have it take place over tea. Include the fistfight. Have your characters use their best china.