Author Jerry B. Jenkins joins the AutoCrit family this month, as we welcome him to the selection of authors inside the editing platform’s Compare to Fiction super-brain.
And what better way to celebrate than with one of our signature bestseller breakdowns?
A 21-time New York Times bestselling author, Jerry has written over 190 books throughout the course of his career – most notably the Left Behind series in partnership with co-author Tim LaHaye.
This time around, we’re digging into one of Jerry’s solo adventures: Dead Sea Rising.
Ready to uncover the mysteries within? Say it with us…
What’s the Score?
DISCLAIMER: Note that this series is not designed to provide any kind of qualitative judgment nor a critique of the works dissected. As an exercise in exploration, What’s the Score? offers unique insight for us word nerds as to the linguistic makeup of specific novels, and evokes discussion of possible editing strategies in retrospect. All novels chosen for inspection have already proved immensely successful and stand as a testament to the author’s talents.
Summary Score and Fingerprint
It’s an incredibly strong score right out of the gate for Jerry, with a summary score (compared to General Fiction standards) of 85.09.
This places Dead Sea Rising at the top of the initial score list for all our investigations so far. Good work, Jerry!
(Click here to catch up with the rest of our breakdowns if you’re new to the blog.)
With a closer look at the fingerprint analysis, the majority of possible editing indicators are within the Strong Writing category, closely followed by Word Choice and then Repetition. Those will be our main ports of call for potential boosts.
We’ll definitely take a look at the others, though, so let’s start off with a firm favorite: dialogue.
It always bears repeating: in general, dialogue tags should be restricted to said and asked wherever possible. In many cases, you can even go without them entirely.
Jerry certainly has his skills honed when it comes to this, as a quick glance at our pie chart shows. More than three quarters of all dialogue tags throughout this entire book do not deviate from the two main options.
Inside our bar graph we can see that said is actually marked as overused (highlighted in red). That’s nothing to worry about – AutoCrit determines average content expectations based on a gigantic amount of data, including the length of the average book. If your novel is heavy on dialogue, then don’t worry too much about basic tags like said and asked appearing in red.
(Though you could, as mentioned a moment ago, look for some areas where you could trim the tags entirely.)
Second in line for Jerry is whispered, and that’s overused. A quick look through the manuscript in AutoCrit should make it easy to pare these down a little. As we can see below, it’s recommended that around 15 of these be excised or switched out for something else:
Since we know, by virtue of said showing as overused, that this novel is perhaps a little longer or more dialogue-heavy than most, there may not be many opportunities to trim down these additional tags – but it’s always worth a try.
Use your best judgment as the author. If something feels wrong to you or doesn’t read as you intended because of edits, then leave it be. You’re in charge!
Now let’s take a look at a common bugbear: adverbs in dialogue…
Wow. In an entire novel, Jerry Jenkins includes just 17 separate adverbs that are hooked to dialogue – a mere 1.84% of his dialogue tags.
That’s a lean, mean manuscript!
In fact, if we check AutoCrit’s recommendations, we can spot zero overuse of adverbs in dialogue tags. None. Nada. Nil.
This is one book you’ll want to take a look at if you’ve been struggling with structuring and delivering dialogue without the crutch of adverbs.
Moving on to repetition, let’s see if Jerry has a habit of packing the same words in a little too close together for comfort…
We have an average frequency of repeated (and unusual) words of 4.83 per page. That doesn’t seem all that illuminating as a bare figure, but it begins to make more sense when we look at the words themselves.
Jerry’s most frequently repeated words are story-specific, such as character names and gods, king, and detective. When this is the case, it’s usually not a bad sign – but let’s check out some of the more standard repetition for a moment…
Heading to repeated phrases, we spent some time hopping through the manuscript to look for definitive examples of a worthwhile edit.
The result, however, was the discovery that much of the repetition was to be found:
- Within dialogue
- Used for emphasis
- Occurring within an acceptable natural flow of the prose
See the example above for repetition of the phrase “thriving business.”
Given extra time in the chair and the determination to locate every possible piece of awkward repetition, we could make our way through AutoCrit’s list (right column in the screenshot) and there would certainly be gains to be found. There almost always are.
But for now, we’re happy with what we see. Let’s move on!
What's YOUR Score?
Moving into the Strong Writing category, how does Dead Sea Rising fare for general use of adverbs within the prose?
Very well indeed! Our signature Compare to Fiction meter is nestled between “Good” and “Great” – indicating that Jerry is in very good company.
But let’s drill down a little more and check out any overuse on the word level…
There’s plenty of red to work with here, with Jerry’s most-used adverb being already.
Topping the overuse list we have already, finally, anyway, and nearly. You’ll notice that really also sees a fair amount of exposure throughout the manuscript, but it isn’t actually overused compared to AutoCrit’s standards.
Taking it all the way to the word level, our worklist includes nixing 24 instances of already, 20 of finally, and 29 of anyway.
As always, these aren’t hard and fast commands but simple recommendations. If editing your own manuscript, you might want to start lower down the list with the words that ask for fewer removals, before working your way up to the heavier ones.
This will help get you into the flow of repositioning some of the narrative, or figuring out alternative ways to convey the information you want. Let your creativity fly!
Moving on, let’s check out the Filler Words report…
We’ve hit the red zone for the first time in Dead Sea Rising! Filler words appear to be a core area for focus here, so let’s take a peek inside.
In an interesting turn, the most common filler word, that, isn’t actually overused – surprising, considering it’s the most oft-employed here by a significant margin.
Instead, we want to look more closely at just, even, that’s, and seemed. Let’s take a look at the per-word numbers…
We definitely have some investigating to do here, as there are plenty of suggested trims.
For an example, we hopped through to take a look at Jerry’s use of the word even…
If you remember, this is a manuscript that contains a lot of dialogue, and much of Jerry’s filler actually occurs within that dialogue.
This is a tough situation for any author and editor, as trimming these instances means affecting the verbal flow of characters.
In the screenshot above you can see several instances of the word even that occur within a short timeframe. Reading it back, however, do any stand out as obviously unnecessary? Not really.
Jerry uses even quite often to highlight a sense of surprise, unreadiness, anxiety, or looming but unseen threat – so when we zoomed in on sections, it still felt like the writing worked just fine and probably wouldn’t have had the same effect unless it was heavily rewritten.
With that in mind, you need to make judgment calls. Little of what we see is actually causing comprehension or experiential issues because of repetition, so it’s perfectly fine.
Moving on, let’s check out some statistics for Redundancies and Clichés…
As we see with just about every professionally-edited and published bestseller we’ve looked at so far, Jerry’s numbers for redundancies and clichés are incredibly low.
For a comparison, be sure to check out the rest of the What’s the Score series here.
How Does Your Book Compare?
Moving into word choice, we’re middle-of-the-road for generic descriptions.
These are weaker words, used to describe people or things, that don’t typically manage to evoke a strong image in the mind’s eye. Think the likes of big, great, and good.
Dead Sea Rising actually does pretty well when you look at the full spread of words across the report, but overuse of the word look stands out.
You’ll typically see look reported because it can be a common precursor to genericism: think along the lines of gave a look, or started to look at. A character could look through a pile of papers… or would it be more active if they rifled through them, for example.
Here we can see an example of this kind of thing in action:
Yes, this could be seen as a stretch for the purposes of this example, but you can easily get the idea how relying on generic language such as this can lessen the experience for your reader.
What kind of look is given here? Is there some deeper information supposed to be inferred from this look? How can we get that across? If there’s no deeper meaning to it, is it really necessary to include, or should we just head straight to the dialogue?
What would you do?
Thankfully, though, as evident in the sidebar recommendations, there aren’t many edits to take care of when it comes to generic descriptions in this manuscript – and that’s great!
Next, let’s take a quick look at the stats for Initial Pronouns and Names, and something new for AutoCrit: the Power Words profile…
As we’ve come to expect, the percentage of sentences throughout this manuscript that begin with a character name or pronoun comes in a little below 50%. So far, it’s quite unusual to find published fiction that pushes much beyond that benchmark.
In our power words profile, the prevailing emotional cores of Dead Sea Rising are fear and encouragement – just what you’d expect for a globe-trotting high stakes mystery adventure.
You’ll also notice a higher number of marks in the “lust” category, and it’s worth keeping in mind that those signifiers aren’t just relevant to sexual lust, but also lust for power, desire for riches, or even the search for truth.
In that sense, from the emotional profile it appears Dead Sea Rising is exactly what you’d expect it to be based on the presentation and synopsis.
Pacing & Momentum
Another great result for Dead Sea Rising sees a mere 3.22% of paragraphs detected as slower paced.
In the lower image, we can see the peaks and troughs that we’re accustomed to for a nicely-paced story, but with a view to potential edits we should take a look at the red spots at the bottom.
There are definite clusters here – a noticeable spot at the beginning, and a closer grouping around the midpoint that would be worth a deeper look from an author’s perspective.
Slower sections are a given with any story, and in many cases are absolutely necessary so you can build to your intended effect at various points, but do use this report to quickly check whether you might be pulling back on the pace for a little too long or a little too often.
Given what we see here is nicely spaced and at such a low overall percentage, we’d say Jerry’s nailed it.
Finally for this section, in the above screenshot you can enjoy some insight into Jerry’s writing style when it comes to sentences.
As you can see, the vast majority of sentences contain less than 10 words – so much so, in fact, that the number of shorter sentences is more than double the nearest competition (10-19 words).
This is something that will likely have a positive effect on the readability of the novel, which we’ll turn our attention to now…
A Flesch Reading Ease score of 82 puts Dead Sea Rising inside the conversational English level, suitable for 6th grade readers and considered easy to read.
Readability can feel like an afterthought when you’re busy hammering out the paragraphs of your latest opus, but it really is important. Staying clear and succint, even if you’re using some unconventional or theme-specific words, will always pay dividends when it comes to wider appeal.
Your prose can still be smart and involving without being dense, so always keep an eye on your readability scores as you complete rounds of edits.
Genre Comparison Score
To top it all off, let’s check the summary score for Dead Sea Rising when compared to the Mystery/Suspense genre, using AutoCrit’s unique genre comparison abilities. Does anything change?
That’s what we like to see!
Jerry’s manuscript jumps a few rungs up the ladder to an overall score of 86.58 compared to the average expectations of the thriller market – a superb score that speaks to a tight and focused novel all round.
But how about an extra treat?
What do you think would happen if we compared Dead Sea Rising to Jerry Jenkins himself?
Remember, AutoCrit’s “virtual Jerry Jenkins” is created by consuming and analyzing a massive range of Jerry’s books – so is Dead Sea Rising an anomaly? Or is it a book from an author with their own defined style doing what they do best?
Woo – there it is. JERRYCEPTION!
Jumping right into the 90s, it seems Dead Sea Rising is most definitely a Jerry Jenkins novel – in tune with the author’s style and consistent with his personal approach to language and storytelling.
So if you haven’t caught it yet: Jerry Jenkins fans, this one’s for you.
What do you think of our Dead Sea Rising bestseller breakdown? Did you pick up some pointers for your own adventures in editing?
If you’d like to harness the same power for yourself, click here to jump on over and give AutoCrit a try today.