Thursday, August 13, 2015

Stephen King tells the secrets.....

I saw a great FB post today advertising 'Stephen Kings Top 20 tips for writers', clicked on it and gave plenty of time and consideration to what Mr King had to say. I also had a completed unrated (but just as interesting) email conversation with Bookvetter - that's the read/review site I spoke about on here back in January. Unfortunately I probably wouldn't hold your attention long enough to read two different articles, so I'm gonna leave the Bookvetter one for another time (It will be worth reading though, some good information for authors in that one!)

Anyway, back to Stephen King. Firstly, I must confess... I'm not a great fan, (Sorry Stephen, just not my preferred genre). Secondly, the whole article is available here:

And so I'll move on...
One of the things I like about this version is that it understands we aren't all mind readers; unlike some sites that have published this article, they haven't butchered it down to just the bold black print heading. Here you get the eye catching header, and then a short blurb so that idiots like me can understand the meaning behind those big bold headings. Another thing I like is that they haven't added their own opinions to what the very successful author has confided - If they had of done that then this post probably wouldn't of happen.

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”

Right, good start, I absolutely agree and abide by this one! I do write for me, it is my passion, mine I tell you. I write stories from inside my head - I have no idea where they come from they just seem to turn up and then they become incredibly tenacious about getting put in print. I am very grateful for them to, because I love writing and they give me the fuel. During this stage the story is only for me, I write it as quickly as I can to get the story out of my head.

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe. The timid fellow writes “The meeting will be held at seven o’clock” because that somehow says to him, ‘Put it this way and people will believe you really know. ‘Purge this quisling thought! Don’t be a muggle! Throw back your shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write ‘The meeting’s at seven.’ There, by God! Don’t you feel better?”

This one is not so obvious to me. I don't really understand a timid writer, but I do understand a timid character in a story line. As strange as it may seem, when I'm writing I am that character for the time that I'm writing the lines - complete escapism! Obviously if EVERY character in a story is timid then there could be a problem, (and I'd probably question the quality of the story).

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend. Consider the sentence “He closed the door firmly.” It’s by no means a terrible sentence, but ask yourself if ‘firmly’ really has to be there. What about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before ‘He closed the door firmly’? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, then isn’t ‘firmly’ an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?”

OK - I understand this, and it is a good reminder. To be able to get readers to be able to envisage the scene, and hear the voices, is a real skill, one that I certainly strive for. The thing is, not all readers can do that. I confess to a little 'dumbing down' just to expand the potential reader base, BUT it is only a little.

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.” “While to write adverbs is human, to write ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ is divine.” - Solid advice, I'm working on it!

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story… to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.“

Hallelujah to that! My grammar is not too brilliant, and that's why I use an editor & proof reader for my books. But here, here I am me so suck it you grammar nerds; don't hate me for my ignorance, hate me for a whole host of other available reasons.

6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.”

Very inspirational, and very true. I think this is the reason why I write the way I do; My working environment can be very stressful at times - sour-stick, unripe lemon sour, head-banging type of stressful! This stuff goes round and around in my head day and night sometimes, it is that stressful (and frustrating). But when I sit down to write all that stuff gets pushed to the back, right back. That allows copious amounts of empty space to let the story's in - and that little cinema that I use to watch the stories unfold. It's that stressful stuff that pays the bills, the writing has no potential to negatively impact my life financially so I can write free of worry, free of stress... free of fear. (At this stage I'm writing for me, any fear comes after the book has been finished, the fear of the opinions of others).

7. Read, read, read. “You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

Reading is everywhere! Web based newspapers, books, magazines, even menus at restaurants. I don't think he is limiting the reading to books, just highlighting that any reading can be helpful to an author.

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second to least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

I think I understand this, and I'm certainly not questioning Mr Kings ability to be rude - but I think there is a possible confusion over the words. I think there is a bit of 'write for yourself' and 'don't try and please everyone 'cos it just ain't gonna happen' in this one; with a dash of 'thicken up the skin' cos it could get messy' warning.

9. Turn off the TV. “Most exercise facilities are now equipped with TVs, but TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs. If you feel you must have the news analyst blowhard on CNN while you exercise, or the stock market blowhards on MSNBC, or the sports blowhards on ESPN, it’s time for you to question how serious you really are about becoming a writer. You must be prepared to do some serious turning inward toward the life of the imagination, and that means, I’m afraid, that Geraldo, Keigh Obermann, and Jay Leno must go. Reading takes time, and the glass teat takes too much of it.

I seem to be very lucky where I can completely zone out when I'm writing. Don't get me wrong, quiet is good, but sometimes I find that a little back ground noise can help.

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

This is true. The first draft is about capturing the story in its entirety, after that's done it is time to go back through it from the start. I have found that taking long breaks, or not writing quick enough, has one of two effects;

1. Excitement wains, concentration becomes hard work - writing a story should never be classed as work, it can't be a chore.
2. It stops being fun! (see above)

... To Be Continued...

Talking of being a chore, you've probably had enough of this by now so we'll take a break. If you can't wait to see the next ten you can see the whole article at:

All good - Write, then write some more...

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