July 12th, 2010

writing: it never killed anyone

Anyone but Dan Brown. Well, not Meyer. But anyone else!

I've been having fun with I Write Like. You put in a chunk of text, and it spits out a famous author you write like. I'm not sure how it works, but the results are interesting. Naturally I had to try this with a variety of things I've written just to see if I could spot any trends and see what authors were in the bank.

The top writer? Dan Brown. I should be worried. I got through The Da Vinci Code just to see what the big deal was but didn't read anything else because the only good thing about his writing is the way he built suspense. I'll give him that. But the blatant errors in the text (like the fact that you can't be a symbology professor even at Harvard), the lack of characterization, and the letdown of an ending ruined the book for me. Let's not even get into the plagiarism issues.

In case you're curious, here's the full breakdown. (And in case you're curious, this entry up to this point reads like Kurt Vonnegut. Whew.)

* Dan Brown: (Engagement ring alternatives, How I use Delicious, a recent cover letter, my entire 2009 rewrite (this doesn't bode well, especially since it is a rewrite), my entire 2007 NaNoWriMo novel. I'll go in the corner with my dunce writer cap. Total: 5.

* Chuck Palahniuk: my entire 2002 NaNo novel, my entire 2004 NaNo novel, my entire 2006 NaNo novel. I haven't read Fight Club, but since my 2006 NaNoWriMo novel apparently reads like Chuck Palahniuk, maybe I should pick up a copy. Total: 3.

* HP Lovecraft: both parts of a 4700-word comment for musical_junkie, what I found in my room while cleaning. Neither is a piece of high and mighty prose, but I Write Like suggested anything that was at least a few paragraphs long. Total: 2.

Now for the writers I got only once.

* Margaret Atwood: Trivial Pursuit-dating.

* Douglas Adams: Will Justin Bieber tour North Korea? Hate to spoil it for you, but no. I'm amused that I got a funny author for a funny entry.

* Stephen King: Adventures in KDE.

* Rudyard Kipling: all of Wrimonia

* James Joyce: My entire 2005 NaNo novel. I don't see myself touching this draft again.

* Ian Fleming: My entire 2003 NaNo novel. I haven't read any of the James Bond books, but I probably won't be touching this book again.

* J. D. Salinger: My entire 2008 NaNo novel. I probably won't be touching this draft again.

So what conclusions can we draw? Not that many. We still don't know how the program actually works. For all we know it barfs and gives random responses after so many words. I just put in three paragraphs of gibberish and got Chuck Palahniuk as a response, so it's doing more pattern analyzing than actual reading. Whatever the case, I just reread the first two pages of The Da Vinci Code on Amazon and now feel much better about myself as a writer. Whether that's enough to make my next draft and my next cover letter read like someone besides Dan Brown wrote it, we'll see.