On Writing: A Memoir of the craft is probably one of the first books on writing that I’ve read, not counting the endless blog posts from many different authors who shared their advice. But Steve knows how it’s done. He’s an insane bastard who has written and published more than most people read. He isn’t always good though. The sheer amount of words he puts on the page is bound to make some of his work seem like he pulls plot twists out of a hat. But he is right about many things when it comes to the craft.
You can’t be a good writer if you don’t read a lot and you can’t be a good writer if you don’t write a lot either. There is no magic formula that you can apply and become a best-selling author after putting together four hundred pages or so. You have to put in the hard work. Writing is a skill like any other, after all.
Something that almost every aspiring writer is guilty of, myself included, is that they try to please everyone with their writing. They often go against their first instinct and change their words to make them less shocking or offensive. It makes the work seem translucent and cheap, and most importantly, a lie.
Although I’m not a huge fan of King’s work (I did love Carrie and Salem’s Lot, and I’m going to give The Dark Tower a chance when I get to it), I respect him. Especially now that I’ve gotten an insight of his creative process. I’ll take his advice and start writing more. He clearly knows what he’s talking about.
Every year I participate in NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month that takes place every November). I’ve done it since 2011. I would always give up somewhere before the 10K mark for one reason or the other. This year was different, though. I’ve written 23 thousands of sort of cohesive words! I didn’t succeed but I did get closer than ever before.
After reading On Writing, I realized what was different. I wrote just for myself. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to ever show the final product to anyone and it was the most fun I had while writing in years.
So thank you, Steve, for reminding me that I am my work’s first reader.
P.S. The way he talks about his wife Tabby is just adorable.