Quantifying Revisions

Today I would like to have a brief chat with you about quantifying revisions. It’s great to say we went through a manuscript from top to bottom and thoroughly scoured it. Generally, we work hard and that’s all anyone needs to know.

But what if we want some numeric measurement of what we did, even if it’s just out of personal curiosity?

Tools like Scrivener might already give you the difference in greater detail, but I’m not experienced with it. I’m relatively lo-fi in comparison, just using Microsoft Word for most of my needs; however, Word has some helpful tools to quantify differences when you keep your drafts in separate documents.

Let’s use The Masked Queen’s Lament as an example, because I zeroed in on one necessary change when I went back and fixed it, but I did much more than that. How much more? Well, according to Word:

A comparison panel suggests 853 revisions between the first release and the re-release.
A comparison panel suggests 853 revisions between the first release and the re-release.

The image shows many more tools for comparing the differences line by line, but I only wanted one figure to summarize it for you. According to Word, that one number is 853 revisions.

There are also online tools to run a “diff”, or a comparison between two text documents. One such tool is diffchecker.com.

It gives a marginally different result in a slightly expanded way:

Diffchecker suggests 419 removals and 457 additions.
Diffchecker suggests 419 removals and 457 additions.

In this case, a different algorithm spotted 419 removals (deletions) and 457 additions. The sum of those is slightly larger than what Word gave us, but it’s in the same ballpark.

Numbers, of course, give us quantity. Quality is something else. These measurement tools aren’t going to replace a human who can tell you how one single change fixed a phrase that had been nonsense due to a word omission or a typo. They don’t describe how things are better. Their sole job is to spot the difference.

Have you ever tracked your manuscript revisions in a quantifiable manner? Have you found it practically useful in a particular context, or were you, like me, just curious? Feel free to leave a comment.

Some Thoughts On My 2018

The elapsed year was not one where any new material was written, except if you count sweeping changes or rewrites to a prior project.

What really changed was my move away from transcribing and editing at home as a primary source of income. It had been a feeble and inconsistent living all along, not really a living at all. It fostered inconsistent eating and sleeping patterns. It encouraged social isolation. I had basically been living on ballooning credit while in the city with roommates for what little I actually brought in, and with interest and fees factored in, things scarcely improved once I was back with my parents; it was still quite like paying Toronto rent, but without any of the perks of living in the city. Sadly, that part has only stabilized rather than improved.

But something had happened to me in the meantime where I couldn’t stand transcribing much anymore, and didn’t want much volume of editing. I sure didn’t want to take seasons of employment at Lush in order to make an income that was actually helpful, only to have work obligations the moment I got home. When would there be definite planned time just for me, aside from sleeping? 2018 was when I said goodbye to work that had begun to frustrate and infuriate me, in return picking up more work that paid well enough even if I had a tough time physically keeping up with it.

In 2018, nothing hugely positive happened with my love life, and that’s okay. Love can be really expensive, and rather than keep with previous efforts to date for the learning experience, I found that none of those experiences had been teaching me anything useful or positive. If I got any better at caring for the people who are already in my life, I prefer that. These are experiences of people genuinely wanting to spend time with each other. What could be better?

My heart broke really hard once in 2018, but by the end of the year, I seemed to have regained the ability to have a normal conversation between one human and another with this person. I’ll take it. I enjoyed being their friend before and it would be great if that remained true, and as usual I’m the biggest obstacle to that. I’m learning to handle such things better.

In the middle of the year, the clouds parted and a shaft of golden light enveloped a literary convention. For three days, I got to live a wonderful fantasy where my top billing in life was as a writer, and people I didn’t even know could express genuine interest in things I have created. Some of them would even pay money for copies of what I had done; astounding! I had a vaguely successful time at another event later in the year, but it is different to vend at a place where what you do is very close to why people show up.

Then it came to be that one of the things I had hyped so much was not how I remembered it, in some respects potentially harmful, and I toiled to fix it. I was embarrassed. It wasn’t the low point of my year by far; the theft of a smart device, the invasion of privacy into my years-old email account, leaning on a strapping device in a facility with countless anxious scenarios running through my head, no connection to social media to reassure me that things hadn’t all blown up while I was away from it, the strong desire to just curl up on a concrete floor and pass out and maybe never wake up. 2018 knew how to hit me where it hurt most. It didn’t kill me, but it took a running jump.

It’s about half way into the first month of 2019, and the brink of another working Monday. There’s still no certain path I’m on, my situation still seems as insecure as ever. That’s how it goes. I’m settled on never going it alone again when I finalize a book, and I might be ready to shop around for publishers or agents so that I won’t have to be the sole advertiser or marketing agency of my next work, either. I look forward to my next adventure.