During a lovely dinner with one of our authors I was made aware of the existence of I Write Like (incidentally, I love its egotistical web suffix ".me") a website that purports to tell you which writer you are most akin to in terms of style. Our author tried a few paragraphs from her novel and her writing was flatteringly compared to a number of major authors, including Leo Tolstoy – because that's the trick, she told me: you are only ever compared to some of the greatest authors in the world of literature, so there's no chance your ego can get beaten.
Sure as hell that night, before going to bed I put my prose through the acid test of the I Write Like website. I didn't dare try any bits from BESTSELLER, but picked three paragraphs from the first two pages of my new novel.
The results were as follow:
First paragraph: Arthur Clarke. Here my heart sunk – do they mean "Arthur C. Clarke", the science-fiction writer? But I don't think I've ever read anything by him – I've only watched a few times the film 2001, A Space Odyssey, which I don't think it counts as an influence. Or do they mean some other unknown Arthur Clarke, the author of out-of-print erotica? Not a good start.
Second paragraph: Vladimir Nabokov. Oh my God – not a name I wanted to see cropping up! You may remember I said once that I wasn't all that impressed by his prose – at least the prose of his short stories . . .
Third paragraph (brace yourself): Dan Brown! I will add no comments to this – I just hope to be able to make a hundredth of the money he did with his pot-boiler.
Conclusions: either my new novel is going to be a Lolita meets The Da Vinci Code with a sprinkling of 2001: A Space Odyssey kind of novel, or I Write Like is total bullshit.
I tend to favour the second possibility.
PS: What would happen if one were to try with a piece of real Tolstoy?