I love to read fiction books. I love getting into the story, getting to know the characters, getting all involved in the drama, and feeling good when the story comes to a good conclusion. I have pipe dreams of writing many good mystery novels and giving this kind of joyous excitement to others.
I strongly dislike non-fiction books. I find that I read the parts I want to and then put the book aside. I have a hard time reading a non-fiction book from cover to cover, even upbeat memoirs are difficult for me. I can honestly say I have never made it all the way through a non-fiction book before (not even textbooks).
All this changed when two weeks ago (or so) Kevin bought me a book called “On Writing” by Stephen King. This is not Mr. King’s normal fiction novel, this one is non-fiction and gives tips and techniques for writing a novel.
I was intrigued when I got the book. I had been curious about it for sometime, but never brave enough to conquer a non-fiction book. I also have never read a Stephen King book before; seen some of the movies, but never read the books. I had no idea what to expect out of this book.
Since I am currently working on my second novel, Kevin thought this book might be helpful in my endeavors. Plus, he heard through the grapevine that it was a good read.
From the first page, I was hooked. Stephen King is a brilliant story teller. He had me laughing really hard at some points.
The first part of the book is a brief memoir of his life growing up. He tells different stories about when he first started writing, rejection letters, and trouble he got in at school for selling “inappropriate” stories to the kids. Eventually, he even tells how he came up with some of his story ideas. For instance, he thought of “Carrie” while cleaning the girl’s bathroom at a school. He came up with “Misery” after having a dream similar to the plot line.
The second part of the book, is the more technical portion of the book. This is where he talks about the writing. This part can be a bit mundane if you have no interest in writing a book or learning how the process actually goes…but for those that are writing novels, this is great stuff. He has a lot of good pointers and techniques that I will put into practice. Things I never even thought about. For instance, he says after you write the first draft, put it away for at least six weeks before even reading it through. This way you are more detached from it and are able to really tear it about and rewrite it.
Of course, everything he talks about are the techniques he uses and don’t have to be followed exactly. everyone has and will develop their own style for writing. But since this book comes from a multi-millionaire author, I stood up a little straighter and paid a bit more attention.
The final part of the book, talks about Stephen King’s accident in 1999. He was hit by a car while walking down the street. Again, I was blown away by this man’s ability to story tell. Yes, I know he is a popular author, I know he has some good books, and I know his movies are creepy, but he is a born storyteller…enough said. He retells his story as if I was standing on the sidelines watching. I laughed and cried a bit, this part was brilliant.
I was a little sad when I came to the end of the book. I had sucked up a ton of knowledge and I wanted more. I do feel I am a little more prepared for the writing biz, and I need to work on my craft a little more. This book has given me a better perspective on myself and my writing and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good read, but mostly to those that are dreaming of writing some good fiction novels.
Five Things I Learned from this Book:
1) Rejection letters are the building blocks of your craft. Editors will often give you little tips on why your work was rejected and that is what you build on.
2) Ideas for books will come to you at the strangest moments, when two completely different ideas come together to form one.
3) Get through the first draft before you decide if your work is crap or not. Once the first draft is written you can always come back to it later. King almost didn’t complete “The Stand” because he thought it was crap half-way through.
4) Don’t worry about the plot, put “a group of characters in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free.” The plot will naturally work itself out.
5) Aim to write 10 pages everyday. Your first draft doesn’t have to make sense, just get it all out on paper and revise it later.
Here is a link to the book on Amazon: On Writing