Saturday, February 13, 2010

On Writing, Stephen King

On Writing
Stephen King

I have never been a Stephen King fan. As part of some class in high school I had to read a short story about a possessed dry cleaning machine (or at least that's what I think it was) and that put me off him forever. It wasn't the writing - I probably couldn't have identified good or bad writing at the time - it was the subject matter. I was not interested in horror then, and still don't care for it now. In fact it generally irritates me.

In hindsight, that judgment - made when I was about 15 - might be too harsh. Maybe that story was simply a poor example of his work, or I woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day. Whatever the case, I am forced to reevaluate King now.

Those who know me well know I have a desire to be a writer. I suffer from some of the usual writer's problems, though, and haven't done enough writing to make me happy as a result. (That said, this blog is an excuse to write, so I am at least making strides in the right direction.)

Recently I decided to chase this dream a bit more aggressively, and this book came up as a recommendation. I'd never heard of it - I'd ignored King for roughly 25 years - but sometimes a search engine can point you in a surprising direction.

In On Writing King gives us several things:
  • The experiences in life that made him the writer he is.
  • Some tools (his metaphor) you need to write: vocabulary, grammar, etc.
  • How to write. The actual day-to-day process of writing and editing, discussed clearly so you know what you're in for.
  • An example manuscript before he edited the first draft and what the marked up pages looked like.
  • Permission to read and write 4 to 6 (or more) hours a day.
All of this is useful information, at least to me. The craft of serious writing is one of those things whose attraction may not survive my actual attempt to pull it off, but King gives me information, permission, and hope.

Anyone looking to write should consider reading On Writing. And I will reconsider King's work. Anyone want to give me some recommendations for things that aren't horror?