That being said, I did find something intriguing in it, which is what Mr. Ray calls, "Operation Ratio." The language of fiction is word-pictures. Word pictures are created from strong verbs and concrete nouns. He suggests that you take a sample of your writing and circle the nouns and verbs.
Then create a running list of the abstract nouns in one column and the concrete nouns in another. Do the same for verbs: weak versus strong. Finally, run two ratios: concrete to abstract, and weak to strong.
The ratio of concrete to abstract nouns should be at least 3:1, but 6:1 is better. In three sample sentences of Hemingway’s prose, the ratio was 9:1.
What's the difference between a concrete and an abstract noun, you might ask? (Although I hope you don't. As writers, we should know that, right?) You can see, smell, taste, touch, hear, or feel a concrete noun. Good writing has three classes of concrete nouns: objects, body parts and landmarks. Abstract nouns are things that can’t be sensed, for example: time, year.
Then there are verbs. Weak verbs come in several types. For example, “He thought,” or “He wondered.” There are the “would, could, should,” verbs. There are infinitives, which attatch “to” to the verb, and there are passive verbs, where the person who’s doing the action in the sentence becomes the object of the sentence. Your prose might be full of verbs, but if the action generated is more mental than visceral, a word-picture isn't being created in the reader's mind.
What else does Ray suggest? Get rid of adverbs, which suffocate word-pictures. It’s far better to show the action, rather than to "tell" it with an adverb. Adverbs are nothing more than placeholders for better word choices.
If your pages are full of bland adjectives (such as the word "nice"--nice day, nice girl), abstract nouns, adverbs, and weak verbs, you are not creating strong word-pictures.
It's great food for thought. Tedious as it sounds to circle verbs and nouns in a scene, and then to run a ratio on them, I intend to try it. I suspect that this man is on to something ...
On Monday, I'll post a sample paragraph from my WIP, and then the improved version.
What about you? You're probably already looking for excess adjectives, adverbs to eliminate, and verbs to strengthen, but have you taken it so far as to run an Operation Ratio? Did it make a big difference in your prose?