While on my getaway a couple weeks ago I had plenty of time to read. I was especially excited to dig into Stephen King’s book “On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft.” And I’m not even a fan, I prefer Koontz.
However, “On Writing”, part memoir/part How-To, is practical and fun to read. Mr. King writes it as if he’s sitting at a table talking to you and you get the feeling that he is concerned about making the advice he is giving practical and helpful to (wanna-be) writers. It’s not surprising that he was once a teacher.
I’m sure there were tips and pointers that I learned that were brand new to me, but overall I felt the book confirmed what my instincts have been telling me these last few months. And that, more than anything else, I found invaluable. I’m a person who puts value on confirmation. For example, I know how to sew, but I’ll take a sewing class just to confirm the knowledge. I feel more confident when I have an expert tell me to do what I’m already doing – if that makes any sense.
“If it works, fine. If it doesn’t, toss it. Toss it even if you love it. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch once said, ‘Murder your darlings,’ and he was right.” pg. 197 This was probably the most profound “pointer” in the entire book for my own writing. In fact, the editing part of the writing process is my very favorite. There have been times that I have edited something I’ve written down by half. Murdering my “darlings,” or those portions of written work that I adore but just do not fit with the overall picture or flow, is never easy, but I always feel relieved after I’ve done it and my writing is better for it. In fact, I may murder this entire paragraph during the edit. 😉
“The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story… to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.” pg. 134 This simple sentence is freeing to me. I can get distracted by what others are writing and discouraged that something else is better or more well written. I remind myself that my writing is an extension of me. If I were to adjust it to be another way, more “correct,” it would lose the uniqueness that makes it mine – for better or for worse. Not that I don’t need improvement, I most certainly do, but I should not try to improve myself by imitating the styles of others or feel locked in to a certain way of “correct writing.”
“The scariest moment is always just before you start.
After that, things can only get better.” pg.269
“On Writing.” Stephen King. 2000