The King!

“…books are a uniquely portable magic.”

This quote from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King, sums up the whole book for me. I finally read it, and thanks to all you out there who insisted I do!! I loved the book, and now it is my turn to insist that any writer who has not read it – READ IT!

I can’t count how many pages I’ve folded, or how many passages I’ve underlined – there are too many, but I will tell you the two main things I got from the book.

1. “When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

Sounds simple, eh? (notice my Canadian accent coming out!). For me, it is and it isn’t. It’s a concept I hold dearly, but never thought of in those terms, and as we all know, wording is everything.

One of my main struggles with my current wip is pacing – how much to reveal at what moment. I also find it drags at the beginning, and I have wondered how much info is needed. My writing is character driven, and so are my favourite reads (I struggle with plot driven novels of any genre). Since the characters make the novel, this line puts everything into perspective for me, and not just with the opening of my wip. If it’s not story, I don’t need it.

2: “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

I love the magic of the first draft, of not knowing what’s coming. It is probably my favourite part of writing. Re-drafting, is all about transferring that magic into something others can see. But, I had never drawn a clear line like this. It changes a lot in my thought process, it suddenly makes it possible for me know when it’s time to let others in (metaphorically, of course).

I think more than anything this book gave me the desire to write. Sometimes when I read a book on writing I become intimidated or overwhelmed with all the details (I am a writer who relies a lot on instinct), and I hesitate with my next writing session. This book had the complete opposite effect on me – with every section I read I became more enthusiastic about writing.

I’ll leave you with what I think is an appropriate quote for the New Year: “Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

Happy New Year!


Are there any writing books that you recommend?

32 thoughts on “The King!

  1. On Writing … 😉

    Seriously, I read it twice and dip back in to read highlighted, dog-eared sections on a regular basis. I also recommend Writing Down the Bones (short essays that lead to exercises), Writing Begins With The Breath, Naming the World (exercises). There are others but I can’t recall the titles right now.

    I love both the points you highlighted. And I agree, writing books that give me the desire to rush to the keyboard are the best.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it! On Writing, a gift from my lovely wife, got me back into writing. And like Cathryn, I find myself referring to it from time to time.

  3. “Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” My desk is already in the corner, and I think I might add this quote above it. The advise to risk everything for the sake of art never has made sense to me.

  4. I love On Writing. I’m halfway through Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott – definitely worth reading. I’d rate it right up there with King’s book.

  5. Yep, one of my favorites. I’ve become a fan of writing books that are oblique … more writing about writing, than teaching writing rules.

    And yes, when a writing book makes me eager to write, I know it’s taught me something.

    Happy New Year, Jennifer! 🙂

  6. “On Writing” is a great book. Wish I knew where my copy disappeared to. I think my son borrowed it.

    Pacing is certainly important and I agree with you that it can sometimes be a bit of a problem. Sometimes I just want to be too wordy.

    Happy New Year, Jennifer!

  7. Thought On Writing was brilliant – it gave me the kick start I needed to get my own projects underway after I had become frustrated. The best inspiration for me was the understanding that Stephen King is not some magical writer with super powers but another average person just like anyone else. That and writing is work, lots of long hours sitting and writing and fixing and then doing it all over again.

  8. I have read and been told that the book is superlative. For the longest time, I was not interested because, quite frankly (sacrilegious comment forthcoming) I’m not really a Stephen King fan (his New England roots and Boston Red Sox patronage notwithstanding). The more I hear and read of the book, especially in light of your entry and the following comments, makes me wonder just what in the heck I’m waiting for.
    I’m currently reading N.M. Kelby’s “The Constant Art of Being a Writer”. More about what it takes to actually be a writer on a day-to-day basis in this Modern World.

    1. Hey Tikiman!! You know I really don’t think it matters if you’re a King fan or not. I don’t even really think it matters if you’re a writer, to be truthful, it’s a very interesting read. I haven’t read a King book since I was a teen, and perhaps that was one of the reasons it took me so long to get to this one – let us know if you do read it!
      Looks like an interesting book – do you like it?

  9. Having read your post and the comments about Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ I felt that I had to read it.
    Within two minutes I had downloaded it on to my iPad & as soon as I’ve finished writing this comment I shall begin reading it.
    Not yet worked out how to underline passages or fold over pages on the iPad!
    Great post – really enjoyed it. Thanks.

    1. Thanks, MIke 🙂
      I just downloaded Kindle on my mac (thanks to Cathryn Grant!! on which I will be reading her debut novel!! ).
      Don’t have ipad….yet…:) just iphone, but don’t think I’d do much reading on it. Enjoy your ipad and good reading on it!
      And I hope you like King’s On Writing as much as the rest of us have!

  10. Stephen King’s ON WRITING is my favourite writing book, period, so I loved and agreed with this post wholeheartedly, LOL. There is just so much in his book that encourages me, motivates me, etc, etc, etc.

    As for recommendations about other writing books, if I had to boil my collection down to just four, hands down they’d be: ON WRITING (as we covered!)

    SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
    By Renni Browne and Dave King

    CONSIDER THIS… Questions That Make You Think
    By Barbara Ann Kipfer

    THE PRACTICE OF POETRY: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach
    Edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell

    WHAT IF? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
    Compiled By Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

    For anyone who wants to write but can never seem to get to it or to actually _let_ themselves, I recommend buying Julia Camerson’s THE ARTIST’S WAY and doing the whole book, as it’s laid out, like a course. I quit writing for a few years in my late teens/early twenties and I honestly don’t know if I’d be writing yet if I hadn’t found her book. Strong words–almost freakish words–of praise, but there you go. 🙂

    1. LOL 🙂
      Thanks, EV!
      I have the Browne and King book – it’s up front on my bookshelf! You, Jodi, Jonathan were all brought back to your writing through reading writing books – wonderful and amazing how encouraging that is.
      Thanks for the list! They sound great!

  11. Hi, very interesting post. I really struggle with putting in bits that aren’t really a part of the story.

    Have a great new year, and all the best with the writing.

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