This week in double rainbows I mean publishing…
Stephen Parrish pointed me to a NY Times survey of the world of book trailers, those magical creatures that use video to convince us we should read books. While only 0.1% of everyone out there decided to purchase a book via a book trailer, the kids these days seem to love them according to an online survey at Teenreads.
And speaking of viral, the I Write Like app was positively ubiquitous this week, though if anyone can prove that it’s more than a random author generator I’d love to see it. I plugged the first chapter of JACOB WONDERBAR in and it said I write like James Joyce. So….. yeah. Thank goodness ULYSSES is the most popular novel of all time among children eight to twelve.
William Faulkner speaks!! Some of Faulkner’s lectures to students have been uploaded and can be found here. I actually needed some occasional translation help from my Southern wife due to Faulkner’s incredible accent, but was totally hooked by his lecture on What Makes Man Endure especially. Faulkner’s vision for the last sound on Earth during the end of times: two people arguing about where they’re going to go in their spaceship. Oh, actually three, because one will be writing a book about it.
Author Janet Fitch wrote a really terrific Top 10 Tips for Writers, which I thought was way better than most Top 10 Tips for Writers lists. Some of my favorite parts: Write the sentence, not just the story, Kill the Cliche, and most importantly: Write in scenes. (via Jacket Copy)
Society of Authors chair Tom Holland spoke out against industry standard e-book royalties, calling them “not remotely fair.”
And over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog, Chuck Sambuchino put together a great overview of the different sections in a nonfiction book proposal.
This week in the Forums: insanely cute kittens, a study shows that competition may impact creativity, which character is the favorite you’ve ever written, and, of course, how did you come up with that?
Comment! Of! The! Week! goes to Kerry Gans, who I thought had some good insight on the question of why it’s so hard to tell whether our own writing is good. Could it be a visual thing?:
Maybe because my typed Word document looks the same as everyone else’s typed Word document. What I mean is that you can see that you can’t jump as high as the NBA guys, or that the person you drew looks more like freaky tree, or hear that your guitar riff sounds like your cat scratched it out. But my words typed on a page look pretty much the same as JK Rowlings’.
I also think it might be because writing is so much a “felt” art — you are so invested in what you write that it “feels” good to you. How could you work so hard and put so much of yourself into it and have it NOT be good?
And I think the industry itself makes it hard, because so much of it is subjective. There are some truly awful books that have made it to print, and some very good ones that probably have not. This subjectivity makes it hard to measure how good your work is. As Jon VanZile said above: “There’s no way to keep score.”
And finally, after linking to everyone’s favorite Double Rainbow video yesterday, I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug the Double Rainbow song, which is also incredibly incredible. If only I could figure out WHAT DOES IT MEAN:
Have a great weekend!
I'd like to jump to the defence of I Write Like especially as it made a comparison between my work and that of Anne Rice. *g* I submitted the same piece thrice and each time it assured me my work was an Anne Rice look-a-like.
I can dream 🙂
Terin Tashi Miller says
OK. As one of the original introducers (?) of IWL on your blog, I feel duty bound to weigh in.
To whit: Why do we writers think what we write is any good?
Submitted a sentence of my first paragraph of my debut novel "From Where The Rivers Come" when a friend suggested I try IWL.
First result: Ernest Hemingway (so no, there was at least one instance of Hemingway as a name generated).
Funny thing was, typed the entire first paragraph of my debut novel into IWL.
Second result: IWL Stephen King.
Probably would be better if it just took your name when you put in your text and told you "you write like (your name here)." Or maybe, you write like (name of person entering text before you).
I had no idea Stephen King wrote like Ernest Hemingway until trying IWL.
It was fun. That's the only reason I suggested people try it.
And judging by the number of people on just this blog alone who did, I'd say we may not know the complete answer to the question of why we think we can write like "professionals," but IWL certainly doesn't do anything to dispell the delusion.
Will have to let some time pass before listening to the "Double Rainbow Song." Am already obviously too easily influenced by other peoples' works…
Ishta Mercurio says
In defense of IWL – I blogged about it last night, I had so much fun with it – I'm surprised that some people seem to have taken it so seriously.
I plugged in a couple of my rhyming stories, and I got L. Frank Baum, which I know is ridiculous. Almost all of my blog entries got David Foster Wallace, which makes a kind of sense. And my PBs got J. K. Rowling and J. D. Salinger (ridiculous both), while the chase scene I wrote for Nathan's contest got Stephen King.
I think it might give you a sense of whose style you emulate in terms of paragraph and sentence length and word choice, but mostly, I view it as harmless fun. I'm looking forward to reading the Q and A on the creator's blog.
And Faulkner lectures? REALLY? Nice! I'll definitely be checking those out.
The Double Rainbow guy was pretty weird, but the song is actually kind of good… I wonder what THAT means?
Wild About Words says
Sent both double rainbow vids to my friend, who was upset when my teen boys couldn't care less when she pointed out a rainbow to them. Now, she'll finally hear someone with the proper reverence for rainbows. Too funny. Thanks for sharing!
Wish I could read that NY Times article, but alas: I am cheap.
I actually set up a website earlier this year intending to test whether book trailers work, but I didn't end up implementing it.
Because my geekiness dictates that code crunching for kicks is fun, but approaching authors to see if they'd like to participate in a study is hella scary.
I posted text from each of my works, and the first came back as "Dan Brown", the second like "Stephen King" and the third like "James Joyce". Go figure.
Loved the 10 tips by Janet Fitch… that is except for the first one.
As a reader, I can't stand it if the author is trying to put fancy or unique sentences ahead of the story. I have put down many a book when I thought the author was more focused on showing off their fancy literary techniques than actually telling a good story.
Maybe it's a good tip for someone working on their MFA.
While my author friends and I pasted snippet after snippet of our own works into the IWL text window, my IT friend went a step further. Lo and behold, when you give it a section of Jabberwocky, you write like Lewis Carroll! Equally amazing is the fact that the first chapter of Hitchhiker's Guide reads like Douglas Adams.
I do think key words play a large role in the analysis, but it also looks at paragraph structure. A friend got William Gibson and when she read some of his work, she could see similarities in style.
And in all honesty, who doesn't want to hear that they write like William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and J.R.R. Tolkien?
Over at Making Light, all is revealed about IWL — it appears to be a promotional for a writer and vanity press…
Adam Heine says
The IWL app is at least consistent. If you type in the first page of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, it comes up with JK Rowling.
Although it may just have good security measures for people like me who like to break things.
Moses Siregar III says
So….. yeah. Thank goodness ULYSSES is the most popular novel of all time among children eight to twelve.So….. yeah. Thank goodness ULYSSES is the most popular novel of all time among children eight to twelve.
haven't read jacob wonderbar (yet) but could it be that your style also resembles lemony snicket? that would be a good thing, yeah?
sharon clemmons thomas says
I love your blog, Nathan! You teach me much, and you cut my own web-surfing down by half at least!
A very patient and meticulous (librarian) friend of mine did an experiment with the "I write like" app. She input a book, page by page, and from one page to another of the exact same story she got everything from William Faulkner to JK Rowling. Apparently it's based on key words. Like if it picks up words like "magic" it will go Rowling.
In my case it told me I wrote like Dan Brown for my first chapter and like Margaret Atwood for my last chapter. This made me form my own (far more insane) theory: that the App is blatantly psychic and picks authors based on their characteristics, not their words! After all, I majored in History of Art at Uni and Dan Brown likes to pretend he knows things about that. And I'm Canadian from Ontario and so is Margaret Atwood. I'm sure if I gave the machine a chance to work out I was living in the UK I would write like JK Rowling *nods gravely*
Damn that sounded borderline like a conspiracy theory, maybe I do write like Dan Brown.
Marilyn Peake says
Thanks for the links! I’m looking forward to listening to the William Faulkner lectures. How incredibly wonderful that some of his lectures were taped and have now been digitized and published online! We live in amazing times.
Janet Fitch’s Top 10 Tips for Writers are excellent. I’m currently reading THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE by Aimee Bender. Her writing is exquisite – definitely follows those rules.
I tried the "I Write Like" site today. Earlier this week, I saw a tweet from Neil Gaiman that he tried the site and apparently writes like someone other than himself, LOL. Based on first pages, I supposedly write like Chuck Palahniuk in one of my adult novels, like Edgar Allan Poe in one of my middle grade novels, and…yikes…like Stephenie Meyer in one of my short stories.
Have a great weekend!
Leigh D'Ansey says
Thanks for the link to Janet Fitch's writing tips – they're excellent!
J. T. Shea says
I put in 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.' repeated dozens of times, and 'I Write Like' said I write like P. G. Wodehouse! Not Jack Torrance or Stephen King? Maybe Wodehouse's ghost haunts the Overlook Hotel.
I Write Like… currently analyzes vocabulary (use of words)…number of words, commas, and semicolons in sentences…and number of sentences with quotation marks and dashes (direct speech). There are 40 authors for the database to choose from and although the list contains more male than female scribes, it is not capable of discerning gender in either the work people input or the comparative works in its database.
(Oh, and nothing submitted for analysis is retained on the server)
I thought I should reiterate the info in my earlier post as it seems quite a few people are still frittering away time trying to reverse engineer it by analyzing reams of work.
As swampfox stated earlier, it would be ideal if you submitted a piece of work and the program was unable to match your style to any existing author.
Shouldn't 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy' return James Howell?
I suppose the database is lacking in british authors from the early 1600's (Oscar Wylde is probably as retro as it gets for the time being).
Marilyn Peake says
After entering the first page of one of my short stories into the "I Write Like" site and getting Stephenie Meyer, I entered the entire short story into the site and got David Foster Wallace. Happy!
Marilyn: I am dying to read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. I love Aimee Bender.
I think it's more than just random. It gave me David Foster Wallace pretty consistently for the contemporary sections of my novel. For the historical thread, it gave me Defoe, Stevenson, and Tolstoy. Can't complain about that. But here's the funny thing: I typed in the first sentence of García Márquez's Hundred Years of Solitude and Cervantes' Don Quixote–in Spanish–and for both it gave me Dan Brown!
Cool links, Nathan!
The double rainbow video is soooo funny. The funniest part is at the end, where the band plays. I love how one video about rainbows, has now become a community project. Everyone is getting in on the rainbow road.
That was an interesting article about book trailers. When I write a book, I'm hiring Angelina Jolie to play me. That ought to sell a few books.
The I Write Like app is broken! No matter how many times I put my writing in, it never said I wrote like Mira. Duh. Even I know that I write like Mira. Just goes to show you, I'm smarter than a machine.
Are Faulkner's lectures good? I'm not in the loop, but I'll take your recommendation for it, Nathan, and listen to the one you recommend.
That is a good list of top 10 tips. I like that she really addresses the writing. Most people talk more about publishing.
Advocacy! Yay! I'm so glad that writers are fighting for their e-book rights. My main concern is locking in rates for all time, and I'm glad that's being fought for. You go, Authors' chair!!
I'm off building my platform by getting an M.S.W., but I'll need information about how to do a non-ficiton proposal. I appreciate it. I noticed that most agents adress fiction writers. I guess the path to non-fiction is, in some ways, more straightforward…?
Those kittens are the cutest thing ever. I can't look or I'll want one. That's is actually not true. If I look, I'll want them ALL. So cute.
I liked Kerry's comment, good points. Actually, I thought that whole discussion was really interesting. Some smart people come to this blog.
Thanks for the interesting reading, Nathan! Your Friday wrap-ups are wonderful.
Hope everyone is having a great weekend!
Regan Leigh says
I skimmed your comments, but didn't have time to read them all. Did you read/see this blog post related to I Write Like? You need to check it out if you haven't.
Shannon Chamberlain says
Well, don't feel too bad. I'm trying to write for teenagers and it says I write like David Foster Wallace. I don't even like David Foster Wallace. Damn.
Fantastic blog Nathan. Just got caught up with all the old posts and feel about a thousand times better informed. Great to see someone so passionate about their work, optimistic, and eager to share and educate writers.
Kristi Helvig says
I apparently write like Douglas Adams which works for me. 🙂 Thanks for the links and Happy Weekend.
I tried the I write like app and it said I write like Vladimir Nabokov which is unfortunate only because I was trying to write like Jane Austen!
Ink Spills says
Every time I tried the "I write Like" app, I put in a different piece of work. Apparently my blog sounds like Cory Doctorow, my WIP sounds like Kurt Vonnegut, one of my short stories is written in the vein of Hemingway, and another in that of Stephen King… Oh, and my poems sound like Vladimir Nabokov.
After this experiment, I have concluded that I sound like myself, famous or not. And I didn't really need the internet to figure that one out.
Matthew Rush says
I can't listen to auto tuned lyrics anymore, they make my ears bleed.
I'm really not sure why people took a meme like this so seriously–how is it different than any other meme with a couple choices (only this one was all about white men with a couple white women thrown in for variety)?
Anyway, Nathan, here's the truth about the meme, via Making Light. (The second link is the more useful one.)
Greg Mongrain says
I tested the app by putting in some of my early–terrible–stuff, and I still got Doctorow, Dan Brown, and Anne Rice. The reason it cannot be trusted is that it never returns, "No one who was ever published," when occasionally, it should.
Marla Warren says
Concerning book trailers, it is interesting to note the two very different video trailers for Michael Crichton’s posthumously published novel Pirate Latitudes.
Harper Collins UK had their trailer up on October 19, 2009—28 days before the UK release of the novel on Nov. 16. They also posted a video on the making of the promotional trailer.
Harper Collins had the trailer for the US edition up on Nov. 18—six days before the Nov. 24 release.
I have a blog on Michael Crichton, and the digital marketing department of Harper Collins UK sent me an email asking me to post the link on my blog, which I was happy to do. The trailer for the US edition I discovered myself when visiting the Harper Collins website.
The US trailer is beautifully done, but is more general in its approach. The UK trailer set up the plot and introduced many of the characters. Both videos whet my appetite for the novel, but I prefer the UK trailer, because it was more informative.