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Does ScoreIt teach you to write like Stephen King?

Food for thought: I recently received an email from Bowker, a service that provides ISBN numbers to self-published authors. They have a new product that allows you to compare your prose to that of successful published writers and find out who has a style and genre close to yours. The software is ScoreIt, and it has a hefty price tag of $99. If they’d let me do one match for free I might have tried it but as it is I will just opine about something I know nothing about.

Let’s say ScoreIt tells me I write like Stephen King, and that my story of teenage mishaps is closest to his horror works. What am I supposed to do with that information? I suppose I could advertise my work with phrases such as “if you liked Carrie, you’ll love Teen Troubles!” And certainly I can use it for the elevator pitch to prospective agents in which you tell them your writing is like Stephen King crossed with Herman Melville (for argument’s sake I’m presuming that’s a secondary match). Is either of these worth $99?

What I’m worried about is that ScoreIt is going to make writers try to train themselves to write more like Stephen King. They’ll pore over his books (and the reports from ScoreIt which I presume have granular detail on shared vocabulary, sentence structure etc). And it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of developing their own voice, they will indeed write more and more like someone else.

Of course, I used Stephen King as my straw man for a very good reason. He has a completely different voice from book to book, depending on topic and presumed audience. And he explains his craft and technique quite fully in On Writing, a standard textbook in college writing courses. The $10 or so that costs you on Amazon would be a better investment, methinks.

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