“Writing and the pleasure I take in it has contributed to the stability of my health and home life“
It’s 20 years since King released On Writing.
I have to say I slept on it until it was mentioned in a recent Joe Rogan interview with Jack Carr.
I began with some trepidation could King cast the same spell with non-fiction? The answer A resounding- Yes!
On Writing is part autobiography, grammar lessons and above all inspiration for the budding writer. We follow King through the little league magazines all the way to Hodder + Stoughton. He builds real empathy and we gain rare insight into the creative process which brought the world- The Stand, Misery and The Shining.
For those new to King there are some plot spoilers littered throughout the narrative. These can be safety skimmed over.
The book can be boiled down to three key ideas-
1) Writing is a joyful process.
2) Good writers can with application can become great. On the flip side poor writers struggle to become good.
3) To get published you need to nurture a network.
The takeaway which will stick with me is building a little red truck. King uses this as an analogy for a safe space where you can escape- free from distraction to produce your best work.
The idea is you use this sacred space to take out your toolbox. Which contains various layers of equipment- grammar, narrative, characters and to a lesser extent plot. A degree of isolation is required here…the first draft should be with the door closed…the latter open to the world.
So what’s all this about joy? Slogging away at the SEO recommended 2800 words…fun?
It’s not the…
a) the several thousand dollar advances b) the fan-mail or hate mail or c) the blockbuster movies.
The joy for King and I suspect many writers is going on a journey with a character. The endgame is far from certain almost as if you were staring at a foggy AA Atlas without Google Maps to take you to the final destination.
“Never tell us a thing if you can show it.”
The tale of his infamous accident features in the 3rd part lived up to all my expectations. It is chilling to read how close the great man came to death which would have denied us – the Shawshank Redemption, IT and Salem’s Lot.
For those looking for quick hints and tips the book delivers-
1) Make sure you have an Ideal Reader (IR) to sense check your first draft.
2) Get 1,000 words down every day.
3) Read, read and read some more. Chances are you will pick up ideas for your own”slow cooker” and notice a few clangers which you can sidestep.
So are great writers born or can they be fashioned from college or the online seminar meat grinder? In Kings view it is very difficult to go from awful to good…but there is a path from good to great.
The narrative highlights the importance of a strong network. What good is penning the latest Ulysses if there is not publisher at the end of the line with a red pen in hand?
On Writing is quite simply a joy to read. It will inspire and leave you wanting to delve further into King’s delightful back catalogue.
“Writing is like fossil hunting…a process of uncovering the truth”
Next up The Stand !