Whilst I enjoy it from time to time, non-fiction is rarely top of my reading list. Add that life and work have (rudely!) sapped my energy and free time to virtually nil of late, and you can see why I’ve not got very far through the long list of craft books I’ve bookmarked to look at.
However after finishing Stephen King: On Writing*, I think I need to put a higher priority on craft books.
Whilst a (self-acclaimed) short book, I enjoyed the gentle warm up with his personal history and route into his writing career. The guy can tell a story** and it’s always reassuring to hear how other people have slogged through the early days, refining their craft and getting exposure in between work and family life, before getting those breaks that build up to a successful career.
His section on writing advice is quite compact, which I liked, though will probably need to go back through to refresh , because the narrative on them is so stark.***
Some of my favourite parts/top lessons:
- The image of his “muse” as a grumpy old man in the basement. Fab!
- The importance of support from family (his wife in particular) and the freedom to disassociate with those that don’t.
- A licence to spend time reading and writing, and to see oneself as a serious writer, rather than having to make excuses for it.
Some things I disagree***** with:
- Writing groups are not always bad. I’ve found contact with other writers gives me confidence to treat my writing seriously. It gives me a time to focus solely on writing, without children, laundry, etc nagging in the back (or front!) of my mind. I can see how they can be misused, but with care I think they can be invaluable.
- Plot can still be important. Yes, character and situation should come first, but a good plot that evolves from those things can draw me through a book. If people start with plot and work backwards to fill in the characters I think it can still work well, as long as the plot isn’t too rigid that it makes the characters flat or unbelievable.
- A basic sense of grammar is important, but telling a good story still comes first. Now I have been put off reading indie pieces because of poor grammar, but getting every who vs. whom etc is going to annoy fewer people than unbelievable characters or bland story.
Hopefully I’m doing the book justice with these short points (we’re back on mad sleep patterns and my brain has given up on me recently), but they are just a few of the things that have stuck with me.
I may be slightly biased with how much resonated with me. I’m more of a discovery writer than outliner (he discards plans as sucking the life out of stories****, although I feel that’s a bit harsh and often wish I could plan, but I just end up writing instead), so his methods ring truer to me than they may to a hard-core planner. Even so, I think there’s something to be taken for everyone, so would highly recommend it.
If nothing else, it’s a quick, compelling read!
*Not that the sample quite does justice to the rest of the book, imo.
**Well, duh! I have really enjoyed some of his fiction, although have to be in the right mood for it when it gets scary! Any hard-core fans would probably love it, because there are lots of references to the writing of specific books.
***Kicking myself a bit for getting the e-book, as print copies are so much easier to skim through for this.
*****Please let me know if I’ve misinterpreted/misrepresented any of these ideas-as I’ve said I’m not quite on top par at the moment!