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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Writing Tips for the Practical-Minded #20: I apologize for sending you this time-waster

There is a popular link floating around the internet, and I'm one of those people who never take that kind of bait.  Almost never. 

I don't have time to take those quizzes that tell me what kind of cheese I am or which superhero I resemble most.  I can tell you those things without taking any silly quizzes.  I am blue brie.  This lovely cheese is sweet and soft like brie, and I think the blue veins are very pretty but, like any blue cheese, the taste is unexpected and not everybody is going to like it.  And if you have to ask which superhero I most resemble, then you are clearly unaware that I am Wonder Woman.

This new timewasting link, however, is irresistible to any writer.  It's like a chunk of blue brie sitting unprotected atop a mousetrap.  It's called "I Write Like..." and it purports to digest a chunk of your writing and spit out a judgment as to which famous writer's prose yours most resembles. 

No, I'm not going to give you the link yet, because I don't want you to run off and play with your own writing instead of reading what I have to say.  ;-)

I just happen to have vast chunks of my own writing on this computer in the form of book manuscripts.  So I posted the opening paragraphs of the first chapter of Strangers, and this machine told me I wrote like Oscar Wilde.  Sweet!

Then I fed it a piece of the prologue of Strangers, which was quite a challenge for the little machine, I feel sure.  It is supposed to be an English translation of a journal kept by a Spanish priest during the founding of St. Augustine and subsequent massacres in 1565.  The "I Write Like..." website thought I sounded like James Joyce.  Another literary lion!  Sweet, again.

Anxious to see how my writing might have developed over the years, I posted the first paragraphs from Faye's point-of-view in Artifacts and got the result:  Dan Brown.  Too bad.  The man can make readers turn the pages, but I'm not a fan of his prose.  I'd love a tiny fraction of his sales, though.  The prologue to Artifacts seemed about right:  Raymond Chandler, a classic mystery writer with a literary style.

Then I reached back even further to see what the machine thought of Wounded Earth.  I hadn't tried any passages with dialogue, so I pasted in the first lengthy conversation between the protagonist, Larabeth McLeod, and the love interest, J.D. Hatten.  Surprise!  I got Dan Brown again.  Maybe there's hope that I can someday achieve a tiny sliver of his sales.  The opening paragraphs, though...the passage that caught the attention of my hotshot Manhattan agent...those paragraphs read like Vladimir Nabokov.  Yet another literary lion.  I love it.

And then I stopped this nonsense and came over here to talk to you.  After I press "Publish," I will turn my attention to today's twin tasks:  organizing the Anhinga Writers' Studio's upcoming writing conference and working on my math literacy book. 

There is nothing wrong with wasting time, and Lord knows that the fertile and active minds of writers like us need distractions at times.  So I'm going to give you that time-wasting link:

Spend some time there, then get back to work.  Because the sausage is not going to make itself...


  1. Hey, Mary Anna. I signed onto this fun link and fed it my best opening paragraph. It said I wrote like Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. Is this a bad thing on a dark and stormy night???

  2. Well, Bulwer-Lytton is very famous, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. And he was a better writer than Dan Brown, so I think your work's similarity to Mr. Bulwer-Lytton's is a promising sign, don't you?

  3. I DO! I just wasn't sure because after all, in the pursuit of literary greatness and within the pitfalls of public criticism and total self loathing, there breathes in the soul of a writer the smallest doubt, which has every capacity for withering creativity into raisinness and melting the hope of the human heart, the sustenance of a writer's art, the ink, if you will, in the pen that pours love and fear and passion onto ... OH %$###!!!, WHAT AM I DOING????

  4. Withering creativity into raisinness?

    I love it!!!!!!!!

  5. Mine was Kurt V. I can live with that.

    Fortunately, it didn't say, "You write like sh**."

  6. Kurt Vonnegut? Sweet!

    At least it wasn't Bulwer-Lytton...

  7. Spooky, I put in a little text in my own words, and it said I wrote like Arthur C. Clarke. Can you believe it? He is one of my favorite authors of all time.

    Terry Shows

  8. Cool--I guess Sir Arthur affected you more than you knew. :)