Wednesday, January 24, 2007

On Writing by Stephen King

Title: On Writing

Author: Stephen King

Genre: Non-Fiction

Summary: A reflection on King's writing habits, philosohpies and practices.

The Take-Away: It was very interesting to see King's thoughts on writing. I don't like horror books. I tried reading Carrie ages ago and it terrified me. But I liked his voice; I wish he wrote fiction that wouldn't scare the pants off me.

The book isn't a workshop or exercise book. In fact, he only throws in a craft exercise to make one explicit point. Instead, except to find gems like the following:

"When you are writing the story, you're telling yourself the story," [John Gould] said. "When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story." (p. 47)

Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometime you're doing good work when it feels like all you're manageing is to shovel shit from a sitting position. (p. 69)

It is possible to over use the well-turned fragment (and [Jonathan] Kellerman sometimes does), but frags can also work beautifully to streamline narration, create clear images and creat tension as well as to vary the prose line. (p. 128)

I find that reading books like this lead me to discover something that I've heard before but couldn't apply to my writing. The "purple prose" I've quoted is something I've heard before. Either the context was better, or my brain was willing to listen.

Plus, it's fab to hear that someone who has millions of copies in print has a similar problem to the one I'm experiencing.

Recommendation: Worth the time, if you seek motivation or inspiration.

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Judy Callarman said...

I enjoyed your assessment of this book. That very book is in there in the bookcase in the living room, but I haven't read it yet. When I taught creative writing online (a junior college course) last fall, I bought King's book, along with some similar others. One is by Eudora Welty--I think it's called "One Writer's Life." Another is "A Writer's Life" by Gay Talese.

If you are a writer at heart, you would love Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones." It is what really got me going finally in writing.

slpenney said...

Judy--I have that one too, but haven't read it for years. Thanks for reminding me of it.