Fun With I Write Like

The new program I Write Like is causing a mini-firestorm among writers and would-be writers. It surfaced a few days back and has garnered publicity on various web sites and elsewhere. As nearly as I can tell it mostly offers a great new way to waste time. In fact the thread on the booklist serve at the National Writers Union described the site as a new way to procrastinate.

Just to check it out, I pasted in a very rough draft of the first paragraph of my current project:

“What can one say about a person whose date and place of birth are lost to history? We know the man probably born somewhere in the Cape Verde Islands. At least it is more likely than not. His place of birth appears most often as Cape Verd or Cape de Verd, the nineteenth century way of referring to the islands almost four hundred miles off the coast of the coast of Senegal in western Africa. He could have been from the Western Islands, the old-style version of the Azores, which were also Portuguese holdings in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Or he may have been born in Portugal, or on the island of St. Vincent (now St. Vincent and the Grenadines) in the Caribbean, or somewhere in South America – all of these appear in some form on official records.”

I Write Like told me a wrote like James Joyce and then tried to sell me writing courses (from Stephen King, which I suspect is more about selling than writing), promotional stuff, and other goodies.

Then I submitted the paragraph of my mother’s novel The Narrows and was informed that she writes like Ursula K. LeGuin. Since Mom came first, shouldn’t IWL say LeGuin writes like Mom?

And just for a control, I pasted in this from the King James version of the New Testament: (Please excuse the color changes).

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send [it] unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks [one] like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and [his] hairs [were] white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes [were] as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance [was] as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I [am] he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

The funny rip-off I Write, not the original, said the author wrote like Chuck Norris, which might not be a bad thing. IWL said the author wrote like William Shakespeare. Again, since John came before Bill, shouldn’t the reference be reversed?

I also sense a limited imagination here: It told many of my fellow union members that they wrote like David Foster Wallace.

At this point I realized that IWL would tell no one that she needed to find another career, preferably in the area of science or math, because that would defeat the sales purpose. But the selection of authors seems limited to hip, contemporary folk and Old Bill.

The following @chendo writing on Twitter fed IWL the lyrics to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and received the happy news that he wrote like William Gibson. OK …  .

Of course it doesn’t take more than a glance at the site to realize that the originators are simply trying to sell coaching, editing and so forth. At this point I think my fellow union members have it right – it’s all about wasting time. And I’m done with that.


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