Writing is hard sometimes. But “On Writing” is an easy read and fun too.
Language is like building houses with your tool box, King says. He outlines a tool box filled with a writer’s nuts and bolts. “It’s best to have your tools with you. If you don’t, you’re apt to find something you didn’t expect, and get discouraged.”
The part that stuck with me about vocabulary was a quote by George Carlin, ” ‘In some company it’s perfectly all right to prick your finger, but very bad form to finger your prick.’”
Then there’s the grammarian rap:
- That’s so cool is not cool.
- No passive verbs in fiction (Zen Scribe: Passive Voice works out pretty well in office lingo where an active voice can get you into a lot of trouble!)
- No adverbs. No pleading abjectly and shouting menacingly.
If you want to be a competent writer, you need to write good sentences, and more importantly better paragraphs. In fiction, paragraphs form by themselves to a beat. To be able to write with that seductive beat, you need to read. To be able to write, you must also write. Finish the first draft in three months and write for three hours every day without distractions. You don’t really need a muse. You should, however, write for one Ideal Reader.
What’s a story then? It’s not plot. It’s situation. Description has to be just enough. You cannot write a story based on a theme, it’s the other way round.
This book is full of such wisdom. These ideas may not seem so high brow, but they are really like a knock on the head. How much back story makes my Work in Progress, I caught myself thinking as I read his seductive advice. He makes you think about your craft and that is a creative writer’s moment of epiphany!
So is there a formula?
Well for editing there is and you can read the book to find out.
I’m waiting for King’s exclusive take on writing and selling e-books and self-publishing. The playing rules are so different there; a success story’s take won’t hurt.
King started the novel with memoir and ends it with memoir as well. This is a book I had a lot of different expectations about, but in the end it turned out to be a comforter for writers, a promise that practice can unblock your writing and that writing can save your life.
That’s the truth, if ever there is one.