My love affair with Stephen King started years before it should have, depending on your perspective. I read my Dad’s copies of his novels when other girls my age were sneaking around with Judy Blume, but we’ve discussed this already, right? With Pamela Ribon? I thought so. One particularly formative reading scene was in a bathtub and involved a loofah glove. All these years later, I can’t remember the title that held it, but I must have read those paragraphs eight or nine times trying to understand.
Then in my tumultuous college years King and I took a break so I could read Dean Koontz and eat my weight in pecan praline candies, individually wrapped. (In those days I was a waitress at El Chico in Shepherd Mall and spent at least a third of my tips on those luscious sugary things they sold at the register. To this day I cannot see a Dean Koontz paperback without craving a pecan praline.) But King was always there, always frightening and tantalizing me, always marveling me at his use of words and ideas. Of large-scale storytelling and mold-shattering imagination. For this reader there is no one like him. My love for fiction and my appetite for strong language (not just profanity, mind you, but truly strong communication) are owed in large part to him.
Over the next decade and a half I forgot then remembered again how much fun it is to play with words and how important it is to articulate your life experience. Fast forward to present day, albeit several years after On Writing was published. When I heard that the narrator of my adolescence had penned a non-fiction book about my favorite pastime, well, I was stoked. It’s the excitement a fledgling magician might feel to hear of a how-to book written by Chriss Angel. You mean he’s telling us how it’s done? Sign me up!
King calls On Writing, “a memoir of the craft.” Its 248 pages offer equal parts wisdom and inspiration by telling the story of King’s own life and evolving career. Truly, you guys, I loved every page. I just polished it off on this rainy Monday afternoon, and my mind is reeling. He covers the creative process, how to capture original ideas and soak in genuine inspiration, his thoughts on rewriting and editing, good tips on how to approach agents and publishers with professionalism, just a million great topics!
Her poem made me feel that I wasn’t alone in my belief that good writing can be simultaneously intoxicating and idea-driven. ~said of his future wife Tabitha during college
As if all that isn’t enough, the end of the book is a three page list of suggested reading. King is a big believer that in order to write well you must first have read well. Stay tuned for a posted list. I’d love to know how much of it all my friends have tackled.
Being swept away by a combination of great story and great writing- of being flattened, in fact- is part of every writer’s necessary formation. You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.
I could retell this stuff in my amateur ways all week long, but you need the original magic. If you are passionate about writing and receptive to the voice of experience, please find a copy of On Writing and dive in. Not only will you glean lots of expertise; you will thoroughly enjoy King’s intimate, first-person, purposeful conversation voice. It was transporting.
For now, could we discuss some things, you and me?
- How many books do you read per year, and how do you distribute your reading time? King reads between 70-80 per year, mostly fiction. He makes no apologies for indulging, and I love that.
- When you write, how often do you seek input from others? Have you heard of the tenet to write with the door closed, rewrite with it open? What do you think?
- Do you have an “Ideal Reader?” Please tell me about him or her.
- What’s you favorite Stephen King novel? Talk to me about its movie translation, if there is one.
- Where do you write best? In what room or physical setting? On what surface? With ink or a keyboard? I need to know these things. King talks about his writing desks a little, and I found it fascinating.
- Have you ever taken a writing class or attended a writing workshop? If so, how valuable were they?
I feel particularly fresh and flavorful to have studied this memoir just as summer is beginning. Time to write! Time to read even more so I can write better. I hope you join the fun.
“If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”