This week I found a new toy—the I Write Like online writing analyser that apparently compares your writing style to those of famous authors. So I decided to experiment, to see what it could tell me about my style and maybe even a little about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. The results were quite interesting (at least for me).
I thought it would be fun to cut-and-paste in pieces I’d written from different genres. Before we start, I thought I’d include the necessary reality-check and disclaimers: I’ve no idea about the algorithms they use under the hood, so I can’t comment on how accurate or thorough the analysis is. Also, the analyser doesn’t profess to assess the quality of the writing it looks at, so however much I would like to be able to claim my writing is as good as these authors, the analyser gives me no basis for believing that claim, however much I would like it to.
The results of my experiments are below, along with a little commentary from yours truly:
My longest completed work to date, tells the story of a woman wrestling with depression, breast cancer, and the imminent break up of her marriage. I fed in the full text, and I got this result:
Thoughts: Awesome! I write like Stephen King—one of the writer’s whose name commonly comes up in those ‘how to write’ conversations. Well, okay, I know the analyser said I write like him, not as well as him, but still, it still feels irrationally cool that my first completed work mirrors* his in some way. So I grinned, a lot.
Then I thought, but the story’s genre isn’t horror, or suspense. Does that mean the analyser is telling me my style choices for the story are completely wrong? Feel free to debate it, but the piece is written from a severely depressed, tense, and scared character’s POV, so the tone of the work isn’t that dissimilar to some of King’s, at least in terms of the dark mood, and the fear and tension of the main character. As that was the feel I was aiming for, despite the genre difference, I think that’s a score of sorts.
A sci-fi short about an unstoppable plague, and the end of civilisation as we know it.
Thoughts: Douglas Adams. He wrote The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Well, at least it picked up that I was writing sci-fi. My short isn’t trying for the comic, so is it a fail? I can’t find out anything more without know the how the conclusion was reached. Maybe it was the mention of the mice that did it.
A short horror, with a comedy twist.
Thoughts: David Foster Wallace writes comedy, so score! I know this is an over-generalisation, but you takes your ego-strokings where you can find them.
FAYE LING’S BLOG POST, from last week:
Faye is definitely a character: cynical, hard hitting and bitter—she is honest about what she thinks to the point of being rude.
Thoughts: ‘Faye’ apparently writes like Vladimir Nabokov. So, the Analyser thinks Faye is like Lolita. Make of that what you will. Whether it has anything to do with Fay’s, erm, strength of character coming through in her word choices and use of language, you would have to ask her.
Have I learnt anything?
That the Analyser has limitations, poetry especially (which is why none is included), but it seems to show that I do have some ability to vary my writing style according to mood and genre. This is a good thing and makes me happy. Is the feedback precise enough to enable me to grow as a writer? Probably not. I still have a lot to learn, and I think I’ll have to rely on the more tried and tested methods of practice, and critique from real human beings … but when no one is looking I shall grin, and whisper to myself, “I write like Stephen King.”
So why not give it ago yourself, and share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below: just click here to give it a try. Your writing will never be the same again *cough*.
*I know this is a bad pun, not as exciting as bed fun, but slightly more appealing than a bed-pan. I shall stop now.