Monday, November 17, 2008

AutoSummarize in time for Thanksgiving

Today's No, Seriously. Just Try It is inspired by the AutoSummarize feature in Microsoft Word.*

If you use Microsoft Word and you're really, really bored,** you can use the AutoSummarize feature. It's in the Tools pull down menu. Choose to have a summary at the head of your document and set the percentage to 10% and the computer will autosummarize your work. It turned my whole work in progress into the following:

Ant stopped.

Ant nodded.
Ant yelled. Ant yelled. Ant yelled. Ant ran. Ant yelled. Ant walked. Ant stopped. Ant yelled.

Apparently my main character yells a lot.

Don't you wish it could REALLY AutoSummarize your book? Because at some point, you have to answer the question: "What is your book about?" In fact, you will probably have to answer the question next week at Thanksgiving. What will you say?

I'm not talking about query letters or "elevator pitches" where you have to sell the book. I'm talking about knowing what your book is about, whether it's a picture book or a novel. It's so simple it sounds stupid, but try it. You may be surprised.

So. Pretend I'm a friend who cares. Wait. I AM your friend and I DO care, so just pretend it's me. Except it IS me asking, so you don't have to pretend. Aargh. Just answer the question, okay? What is your book about? Can you tell me in a 5 sentence paragraph? Remember, you're not trying to sell me the book (so no "In a world where justice is dead, one boy stands alone...").

Now, pretend I am your Aunt Emmaline. "So, honey, I hear you're writing a book? Great! What is your book about?" You've got two sentences before I go baste the turkey.

Next, pretend I'm your mother-in-law and I need something to tell my friends when I report back with news of everyone from Thanksgiving. "What's your book about?" You have 10 words.

Okay. I'm your cousin's boyfriend and I'm only pretending to like you until the pie is served. "So, er, what did you say that book was about?" You've got 5 words.

I'm your great-grandma and I can't hear a thing. You get one chance, one single word, to scream at me when I put my soft hand on yours, beaming with pride and say, "I'm so proud you're writing again. I still have that duck story you wrote in third grade. What's your book about?"

So, what is your book about?

* AutoSummarize was featured in the time-wasting suggestions section of the NaNo website this week.
** Like the snowflakes aren't even mesmerizing any more bored.


Tabitha said...

Great exercise! And I'm with you about wishing Auto Summarize actually summarized in a coherent manner. Though it IS entertaining... :)

Elise Murphy said...

Excellent idea. Now, could you please post the EXACT formula for these summaries? You know, kind of a second grade "how to write a paragraph" instruction booklet? 'Cause my books about "stuff."

Angela said...

Oh my gosh! I'm going to have to go look for the auto-summary feature!!!

Jacqui said...

So, Tabitha, what is your book about?

Elise, me too, sadly. Do as I say...

Angela, look under "Tools" (I feel if my sister reads this she's going to make a comment about that being my personal category...)

Brenda said...

This sounds interesting...will have to play with this and see what happens...Don't know if I will be brave enough to post that info, as you did, but will play just the same...

Jacqui said...

Brenda, will you at least tell us your one word? I think mine (for my NaNo novel) is "lies."

Marina said...

Never mind Auto Summarise - if only I could summarise my book in a coherent manner.

Tabitha said...

Okay, I'll share my one word: "image."

Jacqui said...

Mmm. Tabitha, good one. I am intrigued.