I’ve been busy this year. From our trip to Thailand and Bali in the winter/spring, to hopping from one place to another into the summer, to finally settling down again in the fall, I haven’t had the time to post very often. I am hoping to change that now.
As far as my writing goes, I’ve been hard at work with subsequent drafts of my YA Science Fiction novel. I started a new practice in July during a break from my writing that has been extremely helpful in tackling the usual problems of world building, plot continuity, and character development. I read other books in my genre, which is my usual break activity, but this time I also read Stephen King’s On Writing.
This book floored me.
I had no idea that Stephen King, like me, also has trouble with plot and feels that the books of his in which he did plot his way through are actually his worst books.
“Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest.”
I felt empowered by my own tendency towards character driven stories, because he writes them, too.
I enjoyed the first half of the book, which was a memoir of how he started out as a writer, but the second half was where his little bits of advice helped to illuminate many of the things I struggle with in revisions.
He advises writers to write a draft of their book with the door closed first – so that we aren’t influenced by the opinions of others. Our second major draft should be after a break of 6 weeks (or however long feels right to us) and written with the door open, so we can let the world outside mesh with our world and enrich it. Both concepts aren’t foreign to me, but King spells them out with brevity and articulation that begs for rereading when needed. He’s not just concise with his words, he’s actually funny, which makes this non-fiction book stand out from some of the more boring lecture-type books on craft that are out there:
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
I’m on yet another shorter break from the revising and I’m planning to reread the second half of this book to uncover some of his jewels of advice I’ve forgotten. And I want to stress this practice for the writers out there that are feeling stumped during their revisions.
Craft is important. Craft is essential. Go out there and find books on craft and read them. Today. I guarantee that the more you read, the better your writing will be, and King does, too:
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
The whole point of writing in the first place, for me anyways, is to visit another place and time, to gain a fresh perspective on life and what it means to be human. Nothing does this as well as a book. To give you a final, wise quote from Stephen King:
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”