Earlier this week, a meme swept the Internet, permitting authors to plug in chunks of text, click a button, and determine which famous author’s writing most resembles that chunk. (Which famous *male* author – with two exceptions – but that’s another blog post…) Ever the sheep, I tested myself against the rest of the Internet world.
I write like Jack London.
But who am I kidding? I write like Mindy Klasky.
I recently had occasion to read every word of my first five published novels – the volumes of the Glasswrights Series. (I was reviewing them to prepare electronic files so that they can be available as e-books. They were written far enough in the past that I did not have a final edited version on my computer system, because the final edited version was completed on paper, rather than electronically.)
That intense re-read (well over half a million words, in about ten days) taught me a lot about my own writing. Even as far back as 2000, my prose had a familiar rhythm. My sentence structure tended toward a parallel symmetry that I still use today. My imagery was similar to the metaphors and similes I use today. Even my annoying crutch words and phrases (“and then”, “for just an instant”, “though”, “were Xing” verb constructions) were the same – although I’ve become better at trimming them away from my finished text.
Years ago, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the novels of John Steinbeck. Steinbeck’s first, little-known novel was a pirate fantasy called CUP OF GOLD. Most people ignore it as a journeyman work, a fable, nothing with the power and grandeur of, say, GRAPES OF WRATH. But CUP *reads* like Steinbeck. It contains a lot of his trope characters. The bones of the sentences are there, ready to be revealed to the studious reader. The themes about the nature of good and evil in mankind spring out of that earlier work, just waiting to be explored in future novels.
I used to dream about becoming a Nobel-prize-winning literary author. I wondered how scholars would view my Glasswrights Series, whether they would find any links to my “serious” novels. Now, with more than a decade of experience under my writing belt, I know that I’m not going to become a literary novelist.
But even if I did, I suspect that Scholars of the Future would be able to spot Klasky fiction a mile off.
How about you? If you’re a writer, what aspects of your writing cross over from old books to new, from genre to genre? And if you’re a reader, who are some of the most distinctive writers that you read?