A Style that Fits

Almost eight years ago, I read a post by Suraya Dewing on LinkedIn. She was asking for thriller/mystery authors for help in testing an innovative piece of software designed to assist writers in improving creative fiction/nonfiction. At that time, I was working on a thriller and always on the lookout for fresh ideas or new writing aids that might help me, so I answered the post. My association with Story Mint and Stylefit started there and then.

Suraya’s vision was to create an environment in which writers, experienced and inexperienced, in schools and commercial business could improve their writing skills and therefore, for some, the goal of being published and for others, a more professional approach to business communication. The primary key to this ambition was posting work on Stylefit. At first glance, I was looking at a grid of squares. The idea was to post-work into a box and have it automatically analysed. The desired result was to achieve a spot somewhere on the grid, indicating that the work was well balanced and reaching a certain standard. Failure meant that one read the attached report advising how to move the work onto the grid by using or deleting adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and nouns, etc.  This, of course, meant that with revision, a second, and sometimes a third draft was needed to ‘get it on.’ Once approved the analysis also compared the writers style to well-known authors and novels, thus boosting self confidence and enthusiasm, although this was secondary to the real purpose of Stylefit.

I could see the enormous potential of the program. It was decided that the way writers could be attracted to participate in the project would be through a serial program where ten authors wrote a chapter each after the first writer posted a starter. It proved a great success and writers began to improve, not that any of us could see that at first.

Shortly after the initial Beta Test, our first serial, titled ‘The Third Shadow,’ was struggling from start to finish and not a great success, but it did give the writers a chance to air their thoughts and ideas. Between us, we certainly queried just about everything. While the serials were getting underway, Suraya was editing the book I was working on at the time. It did not take long before I realized a couple of things that were happening almost sub-consciously. I had learned a few years earlier at college, while taking a media correspondent course, to condense work to a newspaper column word count without losing the salient facts of the story while still making the article attractive. Stylefit was beginning to show me the same lesson. We had five hundred words maximum for each chapter which meant if we were not on the grid we not only had to think about removing or replacing verbs and adjectives but that had to be done in such a way that we produced a chapter that moved the story on smoothly while keeping to the plot. And all this besides not knowing what the author before us was writing. It was a real test. There were hic-cups, but over a short period, Stylefit became a significant asset in our learning curve. I started using the grid for my own work, the thriller Suraya was editing.

The second lesson learned was a gradual realization that up until I started using the grid for my own work, I was worrying about scoring a bullseye somewhere near the middle of Stylefit. I worried about the word count. I would write a paragraph and then see where it went on the grid. Worry, worry, worry, which just made things worse. As soon as I started putting my own work up, I knew where I had gone wrong with the serial chapters. My thriller chapters were written in the same way that the serial chapters were written. There was a plot, and I would write the chapter within the planned storyline. My thriller chapters scored most times although they were significantly longer. The point was I was not worried while writing the chapter about word count or getting a bullseye place. The lesson was simple. Write as creatively as you want and if necessary, write more than five hundred words. Let the creative juices flow and then put the work into Stylefit for analysis. I found that most times I had an acceptable result that had to be culled. The results were amazing. That did not mean the work remained within the boundaries of the grid, but I found it easier to get a good result and produce a chapter that I was pleased with. Eventually, I got better and better as my confidence grew. As time progressed, I started to notice other writers were becoming more and more skilled at serial writing – not just landing on Stylefit, but their creative writing skills were beginning to show remarkable results. Writers were improving all the time, and within two to three years, those more experienced writers were beginning to give advice and encouragement to the newbies to use Stylefit.

Today, Stylefit is being looked at by educational institutions for use in schools and colleges. Industrial administration and management is also interested. No truer saying is there than “From every acorn, there grows an Oak tree.”

When I look back at the start of Stylefit and think of our collective attitudes – us writers, that is – and the way we collectively rejected, complained, and yes, were at first bemused by the idea of using software to correct and advise us on our work, I smile.

 Using Stylefit is now a matter of course, and one of my most used tools. I cannot imagine working without it. Most of my work goes straight on to the grid, but Stylefit, giving me the odd prod, is a great way to stay on the straight and narrow path to a well balanced and exciting piece of professional work.

After posting this article onto Stylefit, I found it placed a little above and to the right of the center spot – it gave the voice as, Introspective – Emotive – Expressive.

If you want to see some of the serials we have written over the last eight years and the work of our team of writers, why not visit and enjoy. https://www.thestorymint.com/story-mintery