Stephen King - On Writing, Part II

First of all, I loved this book. It's informative, funny and (duh!) well-written. If it looked anything like David here, I'd marry it.

Pearls of Wisdom:
1) We each have a Toolbox that contains writing fundamentals: vocabulary, grammar and style. The further down we dig in the box, the more compelling the story will be. Interesting since I touched on this concept in my 4.2.09 post entitled "Creating Something from Nothing."

2) His two theses for this book include: Good writing = mastering the fundamentals and Read a lot, write a lot. Re: writing - How much is a lot? For him, that's 2,000 words per day. His books tend to be in the 180K range and he takes an average of three months to write a first draft. The way I look at it, find your target word count goal and divide by 90 (days in three months). For example, if your target word count is 90K, then write 1,000 words a day on average.

3) Novels contain three things: Narration, description and dialogue. Narration moves the story from Point A to Point B, Description creates a particular "reality," and Dialogue brings your characters to life. Where's the Plot you ask? Nowhere! The story should drive the novel, not the plot. Plotting and spontaneity of real creation are not compatible! Stevie says, "Plot is, I think, the good writer's last resort and the dullard's first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artificial and labored." Also, "Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest." Hey, folks, I'm just the messenger. Keep your hate mail to a minimum. Remember, I'm a highly sensitive artist-type. Thanks.

4) SK believes stories are relics, part of an undiscovered, preexisting world. Our job as writers is to use the tools in our toolbox to yank those suckers out of the ground as intact as possible. I agree, and it's the same with songwriting. I wrote a song about this topic MANY years ago (when I was no more than a wee lass). I've included the lyrics below.

5) SK's opinion on writing classes/seminars? Maybe, not-so-much. You are your own best teacher.

6) Ideal Reader: Every writer needs one. (SK's is his wife, Tabitha, also an accomplished writer.) This is the person who knows you best and will be brutally honest with you. When searching for your IR, you might first want to consider the person who shares your bed (or life) with you. This is also the person who (besides yourself) you write your books for. (Pictured: Stephen, Tabitha and their son, Owen.) My IR is my husband, Chuck. He's a great writer and his editing and review skills are uncanny. Each time he gets his hands on one of my chapters it improves exponentially. Thanks, hon!

7) Eliminate ALL unnecessary words. Seriously, all of them. This is different than "Kill your darlings" (which SK did NOT pen, btw). This refers more to the excess words we writers place in sentences because we're so darn smart, lazy and enamored with description.

8) Kill Your Darlings He didn't say it first, but he loves the phrase - so do I. Eliminate all scenes, no matter how brilliant, that are not part of your story. These may include back story and anything that is not the story you're trying to tell. This reminds me of the "conversation" Michelangelo had when asked how he carved David. "Easy. I simply carved away everything that wasn't David." Um, yeah, "easy."

9) 10% Rule - The second draft should be 10% "lighter" than the first. This is after you've eliminated unnecessary words and murdered your darlings. If your first draft is 80,000 words, your second should be 72K. Sorry folks. Again, I'm just the messenger.

When asked, "How do you write?" Stephen answers, "One word at a time." And when asked what writing is he says, "Telepathy, of course."

Which brings me to the lyrics I wrote all those years ago. I pictured songs "floating" around in the universe, not buried in the ground. However, same concept...

Songs from within the wind, rap upon their doors
Currents whisper to lookers who will hear
Camouflaged dancers all waiting for a show
Waiting for their show
To talk and laugh and sing

Magical murmurs are asking to be caged
So they may open up and speak their minds on stage
Absent are heartbeats, still they're living for a word
Asking to be heard
To talk and laugh and sing

To talk and laugh and sing
A message each does bring
To have the chance to say

I hope you've enjoyed this trip into the mysterious world of writing. My thanks to Stevie for clarifying a bit of the mystery. And to my IR and life partner, Chuck for sticking with me regardless of how the story turns out.

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