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Progress Report 2023 Week 46

I enjoyed using ProWritingAid again. It helped quite a lot, but not in the way you might expect — or I might hope! Also, something unexpected happened when I tried to write one of the new chapters this week. It’s something good, but again, it was unexpected. Maybe I need to broaden my set of expectations? Let’s talk about these things after the infographic.

Progress Report 2023 Week 46 By the Numbers

Far short of my 10,000 word weekly goal — but it was by design. No, really!

My focus this week was to get as much as the read-aloud pass and the ProWritingAid pass done as possible for Evolution’s Hand Book 5: Split Infinities. That’s why I only got 2,398 words written in The Sword of Sirius Book 1: Firebreak. Well, that was one reason. I’ll talk about the other in a minute.

The good news? I finished both passes. Split Infinities is now in the hands of the beta reader! I went with J. Flowers again. They’ve beta read or proof read the previous four books, and I’ve found their feedback to be insightful and helpful. Respectful, too, which is a bonus in this day and age! I should have their feedback by November 26.

The bad news? It appears unlikely I’ll be able to release Split Infinities this year. I still need to put it through a proof read and purchase a cover. I’ll probably release it in mid-January 2024.

ProWritingAid: Grammar Expert (Mostly)

I say this with affection: ProWritingAid does a great job with grammar, except for the rare times it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, boy does it really “doesn’t.” Let me explain.

I tried to use its features for “Style.” I tried “Critique” and “Rephrase.” They show promise, but the effort to weed through the helpful from the unhelpful suggestions was too much effort. For “Grammar,” though, it was helpful about 90% of the time. It caught missed commas; it caught a few verb tenses. But there were times when it just didn’t get what I was saying, and in those cases, my sentences weren’t that complex. Its recommendations were completely wrong.

I get it. AI is powerful, but it’s not actually intelligent. If you want to see what I mean without me boring you, this Ars Technica article is a solid technical overview. I used it as the basis for some of the AI background for Firebreak. If you’d like a more general overview, my wife put together a great YouTube video called You CAN use ChatGPT for genealogy (with accuracy)! Here’s how. She presented it from the perspective of genealogical research, but the overview is widely applicable.

The bottom line is that AI, in its current state, even up to the level of ChatGPT 4, is a very, very sophisticated auto-complete function. Please understand: I’m not denigrating it. It’s powerful. But it has limits; it has blindspots. The imprecise nature of language is hard for it to master. The implication for my proof reading is that it’s Grammar engine won’t be perfect, but it’ll be pretty darned good.

I don’t count ProWritingAid saying my capitalization of Professional as an error. ProWriteAid is perfectly right, in the context of 2023. But not 2173!

Was it worth taking the time to run the manuscript through ProWritingAid? Did it find enough improper usages to justify the time and money? Absolutely. Even after I read each chapter out loud before writing for the day, and even after reading them all out loud again, ProWritingAid helped me eliminate four or five errors per chapter. That’s more than enough to kick a reader out of the narrative.

The fact that I’m seeing only a 10% “error” rate is profoundly encouraging to me! The bottom line is that I plan to keep using the product because it helps me deliver a better manuscript for my readers. That’s what it’s all about!

Luisa Brunner’s Character Takes Charge!

I had just finished writing Ira Malhotra’s Plot Turn 1. Felt pretty good about it, too! Then I started to write Luisa Brunner’s Plot Turn 1. I ran smack dab into a brick wall.

When I tried to imagine the setting, I got nothing. Just a white blob. Years ago, I would have walked away after convincing myself I just didn’t know what I was doing. Now, though, I knew better. I knew this was my imagination’s way (or maybe my subconscious’ way; I’m not sure how much the two of them talk) of saying I didn’t do the prep work.

So I took a step back. I tried to run partial scenes through my mind. This morning (I took a day off work), it hit me. I hadn’t built out enough of the world (specifically, the planet Bilskirnir in the Álfheimr system) to give Brunner a context to work with. So I got to work. I cast these characters:

  • Dietrich Wolf, Minister of Defense (Brunner’s boss)
  • Laura Moser, Director for AI Enhancement (she’s an oberstleutnant on Brunner’s staff)
  • Richeza Werner, Minster of Science
  • Vera Schmid, Secretary of Technological Sovereignty and Innovation (reports to Werner)
  • Rupprecht Krüger, Secretary of Life Sciences (also reports to Werner)

I have to be careful — I have way too much fun casting and fleshing out characters! I could do it all day (at the expense of writing).

With those positions filled, the rest of Brunner’s arc just clicked. Even the final scenes came together, and I won’t write them for a few months. They might change. But I can see a clear path now. And all because Brunner’s character refused to dive into a scene unprepared. That’s just like her character!

Progress against Last Week’s Goals

Here were my goals from last week:

  1. Finish the second draft of Evolution’s Hand Book 5: Split Infinities (which is the say, the read aloud draft): Done!
  2. Put 20 chapters of Split Infinities through ProWritingAid. Done! And exceeded! I finished the entire novel.
  3. Write Ira Malhotra’s Plot Turn 1. Done!
  4. Stretch Objective: Write Luisa Brunner’s Plot turn 1. Started! See above for details.

Goals for the Week in Progress Report 2023 Week 46

  1. Finish Luisa Brunner’s Plot Turn 1
  2. Finish Owen Payne’s Plot Turn 1
  3. Finish Luisa Brunner’s Pinch 1
  4. Start Owen Payne’s Pinch 1
  5. Review potential new/old marketing routes for Evolution’s Hand Book 1: Executive Action.

What Do You Think?

Have you used ProWritingAid or Grammarly to help proofread your manuscripts? How did they work for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!