I’ve been wracking my brain for something to blog about this week.
My day job has been busy. I’ve also been writing query letters for agents. Editing, writing and my WIP is still a work in progress. While much of my writing life seems to be ‘in the process’ I’ve still managed to read quite a bit. I’m reading three books simultaneously (1 x fiction, 1 x non-fiction and a poetry book!), dipping in and out of different voices depending on my mood. Probably says a lot about how I’ve been feeling this week! But the one book I keep coming back to is Stephen King’s On Writing. Every time I read a passage I’ve been writing down quotes that stand out to me. I don’t do this very often, but a lot of what King says has really resonated with me this week. There were five quotes sitting in my journal just screaming out for compilation in a Top 5 post. Problem solved!
- “It would be fair enough to ask, I suppose, if Paul Sheldon in Misery is me. Certainly parts of him are . . . but I think you will find that, if you continue to write fiction, every character you create is partly you. When you ask yourself what a certain character will do given a certain set of circumstances, you’re making the decision based on what you yourself would (or, in the case of a bad guy, wouldn’t) do.”
I’ve found particularly in my earlier manuscripts, I just kept writing protagonists that were different versions of myself. In my last two manuscripts, I’ve tried to push out of my comfort zone, separating myself from the protagonist so I can challenge the characters beyond the realms of my own experience. It will make for far more interesting reading, I’m sure.
2. “The story remained on the back burner for awhile, simmering away in that place that’s not quite the conscious but not quite the subconscious, either.”
This is happening to me right now. As I’m working on my second crime fiction manuscript, I’ve started seeing flashes of really vivid scenes for another story, likely a thriller. When I set out to write a book, the first scene of the story usually presents itself to me in a very visual way and that becomes the premise that I build my story upon. At the moment I’m just jotting down thoughts here and there so I can bring myself back to finishing my other MS.
3. “And whenever I see a first novel dedicated to a wife (or a husband), I smile and think, There’s someone who knows. Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”
The moment I read this quote, I shared it with my husband. He’s been tremendously supportive of my creative pursuits and I am so grateful of his belief in me.
4. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story,” he said. “When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”
I love this piece of advice King received from his very first editor. As a pantser, this really resonated with me. The first draft is me getting to know the characters and their story, the rewrite involves taking out all the stuff the reader doesn’t need to know and adding depth to the aspects of the story that will enhance the overall reading experience.
5.”I had run out too many plot lines, and they were in danger of becoming snarled. I circled the problem again and again, beat my fists on it, knocked my head against it… and then one day when I was thinking of nothing much at all, the answer came to me. It arrived whole and complete -gift-wrapped, you could say- in a single bright flash.”
It’s great to know that even Stephen King got stuck. That’s one of the most amazing things about writing a story (and being a pantser) that sometimes the answers just come to you and suddenly everything makes sense. Sometimes, it’s in those ‘not writing’ times that the answers present themselves. I’ve talked about that before on the blog, here.
I don’t really know why it has taken me soo long to read this book. Most people would say it’s an essential read for writers. And I very much agree. I purchased a whole bunch of writing and creativity-related books last month and as it turns out, I’ve picked up this book at the perfect time. I’m at a point where feeling part of the writing community is very important to me. On Writing, served that purpose as well as providing inspiration and motivation.
Have you read ‘On Writing’? What are your thoughts? Feel free to recommend any other writing or creativity books in the comments below.