Write On- Write Like Hemingway
I found a fun website to play with the other day, I Write Like. The site analyzes your writing with an algorithm that is beyond my attention span. I just can’t be bothered to find out how it actually works, but needless to say, it was great time waster. I plugged in the first paragraph of my short story entitled Snow, and it came back that I write like James Joyce. Now that is either good news, bad, or a great laugh. It’s fun to be compared to Joyce, but how will that go over with a literary agent? Do I query an agent with:
In case you missed the point; this query is utterly brilliant.
I have it on good authority that I write like James Joyce.
Ahem….bin that letter. But, I have to believe that every writer should strive to remain faithful to their own unique voice. There is a book about writing entitled, Write Like Hemingway. On the surface, I don’t doubt that there are many writers who are adjective hungry and use far too many pages to make one point. I clearly remember a writing project, way back in the dark ages of high school, where not only did I write purple prose, but I wrote it in lilac ink. Why my teacher didn’t go blind, or mad reading those twenty-five pages about a horse in a field is beyond me. I think she deserved a medal! In that case, striving to write like Hemingway is an invaluable practice. My English teacher should have thumped me over the head.
The mind-set of readers pre-Hemingway loved flowery prose. There was no real sense of urgency in writing, nor was there any need. Readers of the past had no competition from television, iPods, etc. when they wanted to read a book. They could take weeks, even a year to read a novel and enjoy it. Take for example, the long drawn out affair of The Weekly dispatch of Charles Dickens’ stories. Would readers today wait for a month for the next installment of a story? It was without any doubt great writing and great novels, but what a shot of lighting occurred when Hemingway appeared! Sharp precise writing that emotionally moves the reader, only now with a clear palate of words.
But, when everyone strives to write like Hemingway and that is the norm, does this form of writing make things dull and ordinary? We long for new voices. What will the next great voice bring us? Or is it already here with Facebook, sound bites on You Tube, snippets on Twitter, flash fiction that is satisfying to the current reading mindset. I’m not saying that readers out there only want flash books, but I think short novels, and flash fiction, will take its proper place in the writing world. I like to believe that it is not all together impossible that in 2025 we will suddenly see writers again exploring leisurely language and the sheer pleasure of reading become a great pastime for the majority of people. Or, am I wrong? Are there readers longing for books with beautiful language and great length’s right now? I’d be curious to hear from you on this, and just what is your favourite non- Hemingwayish book? (Fun to make up new words)
Just for fun I ran this little bit of writing though the analyzer and it came back, that I wrote this bit like H. P. Lovecraft. Well, there you go, a curious combination of things, Lovecraft and Joyce. I wonder what those two boys could have cooked up had their great minds blended? How can I put that in a query letter?
Dear Literary Agent,
I am Lovecraft and Joyce reborn.
Errg…..in the meanwhile, the pen is loaded with fresh ink, it’s time to write on.
I love that, just tried it out, I was Stephen King and Anne Rice – scary combination but my subject matter is far from paranormal/supernatural, curious but fun exercise
I love it…you can always pen name yourself… Anne King!
I’ll have to try that site. Sounds like fun.
I think you raise great points. While I enjoy reading simple, straight forward prose found in many thrillers, I also enjoy a more “flowery” read at times, mostly to marvel at the writer’s amazing gift of weaving sentences. And although I am not a fan of adverbs, I still think adjectives have their place, as sometimes they pinpoint the desired image that a noun can’t do alone.
Thanks for a thoughtful post. I enjoyed it.
Crubin..any favourite writers?
I enjoy Chris Bohjalian, Anita Shreve, Rohinton Mistry, Sue Grafton, Alexander McCall Smith, and Stephen King to name a few. 🙂
I just tried it. Margeret Attwood, would you believe? ! Hahahaha!
I entered the first chapter of my novel. I am also a James Joyce. 🙂 I’m going to enter other things, just for fun, and see how consistently Joyce-ian I am. What’s worse is I don’t really even like Joyce……….Maybe that’s why I can’t find a literary agent………..
I hope you do have success in that venture, Susan. My pre-editor says it is largely just not giving up.
Hi Andra, It’s a fun thing isn’t it? I don’t dare enter a chapter into it, what happens if I don’t write like Joyce and it turns out that I write fiction like Shama writes his histories? It would be too confusing for my brain! 🙂
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