Five years ago, I wrote a piece for this website about Stephen King’s book, “On Writing — A Memoir of the Craft.” I had forgotten about it until Joseph Lewis, my author friend, mentioned the book recently on a Facebook post. So I went back to reread the post and liked it enough to share it again — although I’ve updated it a bit since a heckuva lot has happened since December 2012. Here goes.
I’m not Stephen King’s biggest fan. His success is well deserved, but I’m just not big on his genre. However, this book is on the top shelf of my bookcase, a place of honor, because that’s where it belongs.
I enjoyed his back story as an author, about his early efforts to publish and his successes. But King got my attention in the book’s short section titled “What writing is,” which he started with these three words: “Telepathy, of course.”
I agree. Writers are conduits for amazing stories. Let me rephrase that. Good writers are conduits for amazing stories.
I get nervous when people in the biz ask for outlines. I don’t write that way. Characters and what they do and say just come to me. But once the story has formed, I rewrite as many times as needed to get it right. And if someone does insist on an outline, I create it after the fact.
King is generous with his ideas such as what he equips in his writer’s toolbox. He likes an active instead of a passive voice. Yes. He’s not crazy about adverbs. Neither am I. King is of the show-me school of writing rather than the tell-me. I aspire to be as well.
What else? He says a writer should use everything and anything that improves the quality of writing but doesn’t get in the way of the story.
I also like this piece of advice from King: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Here’s another on the writing process: when you are done a book draft, give it a rest for six weeks.
I don’t agree with all he has to say about writing. His tips on publishing predate the disruptive innovations of self-publishing, digital books, blogging etc. After all the book was published in 2000.
And he says to use a desk facing the corner of a room and to keep the door closed.
When I wrote this post, my desk was placed in front of a large window overlooking the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Taos, New Mexico, and I kept the door open. I have excellent powers of concentration, thanks to mothering six kids, and besides our household is now down to two people. But I’m really being picky.
Those following me on social media and real life know I have relocated to a small town in Western Massachusetts. It’s a temporary landing spot until our house in the Shelburne Falls Village is renovated. I don’t have the luxury of an office here. I work at the dining table. However, it hasn’t hampered me from finishing my second mystery and starting the third — I am at 11,000 words.
And since that post, Stephen King has kept writing and keeps us informed of his political opinions, mostly about Donald Trump, on Twitter. Thanks for sharing, Stephen.