Stephen King´s ¨On Writing¨ – Read it again

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In case you are wondering whether I am using the past or the imperative of the verb ´Read,´ the answer is BOTH.  I read it again and I highly recommend that you do the same.

I say this with the almost complete confidence that if you are in the Indie writer – Self Publishing game, you have read it already.  I really wish I had read the book when it first came out as it most likely would have motivated me to resurrect my childhood dream of being a writer; something that was beaten out of my by the good old Canadian education system.  Have to thank Mrs. Jarvis especially for scarring me to such a degree as to make me give up at the ripe old age of 8.

But I digress.

Why do I recommend you read Mr. King´s diatribe on the art and methodology of writing fiction?  Well there is a lot of advice in their that has very little to do with the actual writing and a lot to do with keeping up your confidence and shunning the criticism that we run into as Indie writers.

Let´s admit it, if any of us were making big numbers (any of us serious writers that is … all the 50 Shades prediliction fiction xxx writers who are cashing in can and should have to read their works to their mothers in front of their own church congregation) we wouldn´t be blogging and twittering and marketing like a bunch of deranged girl-guides trying to flog that last box of cookies.  We´d just be writing and enjoying the fruit$ of our labour.

So let´s say you are a writer who is sticking to their guns, trying to find an audience for your quirky brand of fiction that doesn´t fit into any of the bestselling money genres.  It is bound to get you down.  It is bound to make you question your talent and just about everything about what you are doing.

A large section of ´On Writing,´ whether directly or indirectly talks about pleasing the people.  And yes, we must keep the reader in mind at all times but just who is your market and how much of your market are you going to please at all times?  Sadly, you cannot please some readers without outright pissing off others.  See, right there somebody got offended by my use of the colloquialsim ´Pissed off.´  As Mr. King might say …. tough titty.

Let´s say you are a writer of Mystery novels.  You might write those tough as nails characters like Spencer or Sam Spade. So in today´s market it would be no big surprise to have the occassional ´EF´ bomb explode from the lips of your protagonist.  However, if the person reading your novel more commonly reads mysteries of the ´cozy´ variety in the style of Agatha Christie, those fucking nasty bits are going to be a turn off.

My novels and books to date have dealt with dogs – in a large part about abuse of domestic animals.  So I had one reader write me to complain that he couldn´t continue to read my short story collection Mexican Mutts, Tequila Pups + Chili Dogs because the main character leaves his dog on the side of the highway and drives off.  He said, and I quote – ´That´s just cruel.´ WELL DUH!

I have read a ton of those how to book about the art of writing and while some of them have been more informative and helpful in the area of actual writing – sentence structure and grammar issues etc. that may have plagued some of my work, ´On Writing´ is a great book in that it puts a lot of the issues we deal with into layman´s terms and also gives us an insight into what King went through before he got published, what his initial inspiration was and how he wrote some of his best know works and gives a ton of info about his process.  We each have to develop our own process.

To be truthful, while I have read many of King´s novels, I don´t count myself as a huge fan.  I like his work and occassionally his prose can border on graceful but it never sings to me.  Of course I only hear that melody when I read the classics or my extreme favorite writers such as Larry McMurtry, James Carlos Blake, Cormac McCarthy etc.  But I wasn´t born with their genius nor do I figure I have enough years of life left to me to develope it.  But maybe one day I´ll write something as layered and well constructed as ´IT´ or ¨The Stand.´ Maybe.

Read it again.  It will be well worth your time.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.  


One thought on “Stephen King´s ¨On Writing¨ – Read it again

  1. I have read King’s book several times, as indeed I read all of his books as they continue to ‘sing’ to me. He makes writing an effortless (for him) art form, something I aspire to.


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