Light, friend!

Welcome to the website for the GRIM DEEP novel project. This is the attempt by unpublished author F. Aleksandar to write a crime novel set in a dystopian future. On this website you can read parts of the novel as they are being written, explore the world the story is set in and get updates on the writing and publishing process of the novel.  → Blog RSS Feed 

This Is the Home Stretch

Last night, I finished transcribing the rest of the handwritten manuscript. I also started to layout the book for print, which will form the basis for the ebook edition that I will release first. This means, I have my first complete draft of the novel and will now begin the process of editing it as a whole.

As it stands, the novel encompasses 22 chapters. With front and back matter, the book is 113,844 words long. In my current paperback-style layout, that comes down to 360 pages.

My next step is to do one big editing pass through the complete book. After that, I should have a version I can give out to test readers. After some feedback, I’ll decide where to take it next. My current plan is still to publish at least the ebook version by the end of the year, with a print-on-demand run following later.

I’ve also designed a cover for the book:

Book Cover

Shut Up & Transcribe

Inspired by my wife, who uses her first hour at work each day to concentrate on her scientific publications, I have started to use the first hour of my own workday to finish the transcription of my handwritten novel pages. My wife calls her initiative “Shut Up & Write” and I have adapted it to “Shut Up & Transcribe”. My hope is that, with a bit of concentrated effort, I can finally get this chore done. I’ve also placed a widget on my phone’s home screen to track how I am doing.

Progress Widget

Machine Learning to the Rescue?

As I’ve written about before, I am still working on transcribing the last part of my manuscript from handwritten pages to digital text. Because I am currently very busy with other things in my life, this has been going very slowly. Therefore, I’ve tried to used technology to get the job done faster. With mixed results.

I’ve been experimenting with the Transkribus service to try and train a machine learning algorithm to recognise my handwriting. After several weeks of working on this sporadically, I managed to get my model’s CER down to 5%. That means that 5% of all transcribed characters are wrong. That does not sound like a lot, but it turns out that anything more than 1% errors with stuff like this means that you still have a hell of a lot of work to do to get the results into a usable state. Once again, it turns out that, when you actually look at what people usually term “artificial intelligence”, it tends to fall short of the miracles the PR people promise.

Transkribus Results

Transkribus Models / CER

For now, I have given up to improve this model and will work with what I have for now. Which means I currently stand at 53 of 108 fully transcribed pages and 19 additional pages in a raw state as a result of the algorithmically-based transcription.

I am not happy with this progress at all and, from now on, will try to regularly set time aside to get this chore finished, but due to the vagaries of life as a freelance journalist, I can’t promise anything. I will update you on my progress, though. However slow it might be.

Joe Faulkner Portrait

Over the last few months, I’ve painted a portrait of my main character, Joe Faulkner. It is now finished. You can, of course, imagine Joe in any way you like, but I hope this portrait helps to bring across what I imagine him to look like, as some readers might be interested in that.

Portrait of Joe Faulkner

Happy New Year!

Look, it’s already 2023! I think it’s about time I update you on my progress with the project. In the last few months, I’ve been very busy with my work as a freelance journalist and also in hosting and organising events and online trainings. Because of this, my work on the novel hasn’t progressed as much as I would have wished.

Since I last updated you on the matter, I’ve now transcribed 40 of the 108 handwritten manuscript pages that originated from my push to finish the novel last March. I am continuing my work on that, but I’ve been slowed down somewhat by switching away from Scrivener. I figured out that this software wasn’t fitting my workflow and am now back to editing the novel as a collection of plain Markdown files. I am currently in the process of testing alternative software, especially for final layout and publishing of the manuscript in print and ebook formats.

First Ebook Version of the Novel

As a result of testing the functionality of various programs, I’ve now created a first ebook version of the novel. I am not completely happy with it yet, but we are getting there.

What I am very happy with is the new print layout that came out of these experiments. This is also not 100% there yet, but it is very close to something publishable. These are all test runs, of course. I first need to transcribe the rest of the handwritten pages and do a lot of editing, before I can release anything.

Current Print Layout of the Novel

My goal for this year is to get print and ebook versions of the novel published. To that end, I will first concentrate on transcribing the manuscript, followed by a first rough editing pass of the whole novel. After that, I will update the version of the novel excerpts that are available here on the website before doing some more editing and getting some preliminary drafts out to select people to solicit feedback.

If everything goes according to plan, I’ll have the final novel ready for you to buy by the end of 2023. No promises though, as there is still a lot of work ahead of me before this goal is reached. But I am hopeful that it can be done!