Where's the book?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

#38 Reading About Writing

He may not be the most brilliant writer, but he sure is prolific, and more than competent. In Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he has some smart, sensible words of advice to anyone who wants to write just about anything.

I had read the book about ten years ago, and was about to give it to a writer acquaintance of mine, so thought I should re-read it before sending it on its way. I am glad I did. I had completely forgotten that the first half of the book is a snapshot-y memoir of the events and people that influenced his development as a writer, beginning back in his early childhood. It's very entertaining, and vivid, and reads a lot like a King novel. The middle chunk of the book is his advice, which, like King himself (I like to think), is straightforward, unpretentious, and occasionally wise.

Writing is a craft, he says, hence the subtitle. King takes all the pomposity and pretentiousness out of writing. Work at it, he says, and you'll get better. Read a lot, write a lot. Don't stop writing for more than one day in a row. It disconnects you from your story and you lose the thread. Avoid adverbs. Close the door of your writing room (if you have one) and don't let yourself get interrupted. And use "said" in your dialogue tags, since readers don't really read that word anyway. Basically: be smart, work hard, and don't get all fancy-pants on us.

There's some good advice on finding an agent and getting published, although a lot of it is technically outdated in a world in which we send emails rather than letters. But conceptually, it works. And there's plenty of thanks to his mother and wife for his support of his writing over many years. I couldn't help thinking, when he says for the fifth time that you have to close the door and go to your desk and write every single day without allowing interruptions, that it's fine and dandy to do that if you have a wife who's taking the kids to school and doing the wash and going grocery shopping and making dinner. Otherwise, it's not so easy to get to the nice, quiet, solo space every day. Virginia Woolf sure had it right. Also Judy Brady.

The last section of the book is about his near-fatal accident in 1999, when he was hit by a van while walking along the road near his home in Maine. He thought it might be the end of his writing career. Luckily for all of his fans (me included), it was not.

No comments:

Post a Comment