Friday, September 23, 2011

Will My Real Writing Twin Please Stand Up?

I've gotten some feedback on who I write like. My writing style in my novel has been compared to Daniel DeFoe, William Gibson, Chuck Palahniuk, Cory Doctorow, Raymond Chandler, and Vladmir Nabokov.

Besides my novel, I'm working on a commentary. In that, I've been compared to Dan Brown and H. P. Lovecraft. (And I was hoping my commentary was more in the style of Alistair MacLean or John Grisham. Oh well.)

The same source informed me my previous blog was written in the style of Oscar Wilde. And so far, this blog's writing twin is Cory Doctorow.

This source is the I Write Like website ( I learned about this on the ACFW loop. Several people have tried it, with interesting results. Many pointed out they've never read who they are compared with.

This is the case with me. Out of the people I mentioned I was compared with (take MacLean and Grisham off the list), the total number of works of the authors combined is zero. Add to that some interesting comparisons. One author who writes about the Amish was compared with Stephen King. One scene (of two) that was compared with Daniel DeFoe (Robinson Crusoe) from my book was a car chase scene.

By the way, I'm still writing like Cory Doctorow.

Is this a helpful writing tool? Let me first give the negatives.

First, this writing tool will never say, “Wow! Completely original! Unique Writing Voice!” Rather, it will always compare you with somebody, and that somebody will be a well known author.

I submitted two entries of pure gibberish, such as the typing exercise “The quick brown fox” sentence written backwards or non-words. Did the tool say something like, “You've got to be kidding?” or “This is nonsense?” or “Nice try, but you can't fool me?” No. The two gibberish entries were compared to Valadmir Nabokov and James Joyce respectively.

Second, this comparison is based on word choice and writing style. I submitted a decent sized section of my novel this morning and was compared with Stephen King. I cut a few paragraphs from the original, and that cutting transformed that piece to being like James Joyce.

This explains why my Biblical commentary is compared to Dan Brown. Brown is one of the few authors who'd use a similar vocabulary to what I'd write on Biblical matters. Evidently writers like Matthew Henry, John Wesley, John Bunyan, John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, Chuck Swindoll, and J. Vernon McGee aren't on the list.

Changing subjects, how many noticed the last five paragraphs resembled the writing of H. P. Lovecraft? “I Write Like” did. (I didn't.)

Is this anything more than a fun waste of time? Maybe not. On the other hand, there are some things that encourages me about this game.

It encourages me that I'm compared to different authors, and especially authors I'm not familiar with. This tells me that I am more unique. Additionally, the only mystery author I was compared with was Raymond Chandler, and his mysteries are more hard boiled than mine are.

An interesting note is that the sections that featured a quirky, humorous character were both compared with William Gibson. That indicates someone who has a similar sense of humor.

The reality is that we are in a world that thrives on comparisons. Proposals suggest you mention similar books. There is a place for that. Sometimes it shows you that you're doing similar things with those good at their work.

One quick comment. Christian singer Michael Card had been compared with Dan Fogelberg. He had one of Fogelber's producers work with him for the purpose of catching what was too Fogelberg sounding (as opposed to the natural similarities between the two singers). Sometimes, it helps to know if we're too much like somebody so we can try to take a different route.

And I'm still writing like H. P. Lovecraft. I wanted a Robinson Crusoe style closing. Maybe I should include a car chase.

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