Stephen King – On Writing.
There are lots of books about writing a novel and many are a pleasure to read. However, although I recommend reading as much as you can about writing during the preparation time not all books are suitable for using during the active stage of writing.
Many writers are inspired by books that teach them how to get in contact with their creative side and this is a great way to prepare. However, there needs to be a time when the preparation period ends and you are ready to write your story.
There are many books that deal with the actual mechanics of writing a novel and it is hard to pick a favourite – truth is I have lots of favourites and one of them is Stephen King’s On Writing.
I personally found this book very inspiring, not just for the memoir aspect, which in itself is worth reading because he has certainly had a very interesting life.
At times he has even encountered ‘real’ people who, as he says himself, could have been characters from his own stories. The chapter about his accident and the man who caused it was certainly jaw-dropping – be careful who you write about!
But, what really grabbed me was the way King approached his writing from the very beginning – he approached it like a business – disciplined, but still hugely creative.
He is a real professional and wrote constantly from the start, nailing all those rejection slips to a wall and refusing to ever give up.
Instead of letting all those rejections drive him to despair he used them to learn to drive him further. He was relentless and dedicated and was continually striving to improve.
To do this he wrote, wrote, and wrote some more. But On Writing is not just about putting the words on the page it is also about how to put the words on the page.
He is strong when he talks about sentence construction and even stronger on the sheer mechanics of writing with great clarity.
Too many people think that good writing is about producing complicated, unreadable and unwieldy sentences. Good writing doesn’t need shoulder-pads – the words should stand up straight on their own.
Let’s be honest it’s a rare writer who doesn’t over-egg the pudding now and again. If you suspect your sentences could use some paring down you can’t fail to learn from this book.
King uses real examples to demonstrate how a sentence should and should not be constructed. It doesn’t matter whether you like his writing or not, King’s work has proved marketable time and time again and he has a lot of practical wisdom to share.
ARE YOU BUSINESS LIKE?
The business of writing is difficult for so many writers. A lot of us, including me I must confess, tend to be quiet, introverted types who prefer to spend their time alone with their thoughts and laptops. Yet the business side of writing cannot be avoided if we want to write and sell books that people actually want to buy.
King also gives us a great insight into the business of writing and includes a real sample of a great query letter, which is lighthearted yet business like.
The query letter is something which a lot of writers find difficult. I was no different, however I put his advice into practice and found it extremely successful. On Writing is well worth buying even if just to learn how to do this.
‘The Craft of Novel-Writing’ by Dianne Doubtfire.
Another book I recommend reading is The Craft of Novel-Writing’ by Dianne Doubtfire. This is a great reference tool for you to use during the active stage of writing. This is a time when you really need to focus on the activity of writing. By this I mean the nuts, bolts and writing-tools you need to get the words on the page.
Why this book? Firstly, it is concise. Before you think I am recommending a book based on size rather than quality. I am not. I am recommending this book because it does not pollute or confuse the mind and therefore the writing, with too much irrelevant instruction and information.
What do I mean by that? You see, the approximate average length of a novel is between 70,000 and 150,000 words. Of course, there are much larger and smaller but to make it easier I am staying with averages.
HOW DO YOU KEEP THE WHOLE NOVEL IN YOUR HEAD WHILE YOU WRITE MORE?
Using the smaller novel as an example, 70,000 words represent roughly one hundred and fifty pages. Each of these pages contains about 200 words. This is a huge amount of ideas and words to hold in your mind as you write.
You do not need a book that distracts you. You do not need fluffy or wordy passages that take your mind away from the action of writing. At this stage your guide books should be relevant to the work at hand – this is what makes Dianne’s book so useful; it gets directly to the point – fluff free.
DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEME AND PLOT?
Not that she skimps either. Dianne writes about understanding and immersing yourself in your story. She explains the difference between theme and plot, discusses viewpoint, the need for planning, choosing your setting, your characters and how to develop them, dialogue, plot and a lot more.
The Craft of Novel-Writing covers everything you need to know to get your book written. I am a great believer in keeping it simple and this book does just that.
Good luck with the writing and reading.
P.S. In the interest of honesty and transparency I want you to know that I have chosen to be an affiliate for these books. I only ever recommend books I have personally read and that have genuinely helped me enormously with my own work.
This means I receive a tiny commission should you purchase the book. This helps with the costs of providing the free information, help and advice on this site and there is no extra cost to you.