If you’ve ever read a huge fantasy series of a multi-book space opera you’ll know that those glossary lists at the back of the book are indispensable for helping you remember that – for example – Neg Dendra is a member of the Rem’Jaha Faction, as well as reminding you what the Rem’Jaha Faction is and what the Ris-natar that Neg is holding to Evon’s throat will do (and whether Evon should be worried).
If you’ve ever written a big fantasy or sci-fi epic, you’ll also know how difficult it is to keep track of all these invented names and worldbuilding terms, particularly if they get tweaked or changed through revision after revision. If you’re a meticulous notetaker and record-keeper, then maybe that’s not a problem, but no-one is infallible, and mistakes can be embarrassing for an author.
That’s where a rather ingenious tool designed and built by fellow speculative fiction author James Murdo comes in. It’s a glossary generator, designed to scan your manuscript and pick out proper nouns that could be good candidates for a glossary.
So I thought I’d take it for a test drive and compare the results agains the ‘human-made’ glossary that my editor and me created for Traitor’s Run (book one of The Lenticular Series).
And it did very well! Comparing it against my glossary, the generator found 70 of the 78 terms I’d included. That’s an 89% success rate, which is a great starting point from which to build a glossary from scratch. The reason it missed those 8 terms is because they’re not capitalised in the book, so they wouldn’t be recognised as proper nouns.
The other thing the generator found was all the character names in the book. I’d decided against a list of characters for Traitor’s Run but other authors may find this feature useful. The generator also found a number of other invented terms I’d created which were only used once or twice in the book, and which I’d decided not to include them in the glossary, and some other terms which would be easily understood by readers so – again – didn’t need to go in a glossary.
All in all I’m impressed with the tool. It was very thorough and I can see that it might also be useful for technical writers and other disciplines that need to create glossaries in their work. It also picks up if there is inconsistent spelling across the document in a particular proper noun, which is a godsend for document proofing.