Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lesson One from Stephen King



I've finally done it. I have managed to get my grubby little paws on On Writing by Stephen King. Been looking for it since forever, but just didn't seem to find a copy.

But a few weeks ago, I meandered through the library shelves and there it was along with five (I think) other books on writing.

Sadly, revisions (and headaches) being as they were, I didn't start  reading immediately. But last week my revisions ground to a halt and even though I did revise yesterday, something didn't feel right. It felt as if for every spot that my internal editor pointed out, my inner critic was listing my writing weaknesses.

And fighting my inner crittic is best done away from my WiP, because the collateral damage can be significant.

So I dug through my bag, thinking that I'll keep Mr. King for last. But then I thought... what the hell, I only have a little reading time. Might as well start in on the one I've been wanting to read.

Man am I glad. It blew me away. I'm not completely done, but I'm planning to finish it by this evening. I'm thinking that I want to spend one or two (or more) posts on sharing what I've learned. I hope that's alright with you all.

The second thing (I'll deal with the first on Thursday) that stood out above everything else was Mr. King's emphasis on the need to read.

As I read that, I realized that I've actually been neglecting a vital facet to my writing. I have to read. Even if revisions and writing suck me in. Because if I don't, I'm basically blunting my writing tools.

Bad books teach me the lessons. How NOT to do things. Good books give me something to aspire to. They show me the lengths that writing can go if given the scope to do so. If I don't read either of the above sorts of books, I'm going to miss out on some vital information.

If I don't read often, I'm basically making myself write blind. So doing, I'm robbing my muse of oxygen.

All in all, not a smart thing. Because my muse is usually the one that beats up my inner critic.

Lesson learnt, Mr. King.

I won't be able to do six to eight hours a day, but I'll be able to manage two to four. Already better than two to four hours a week.

Anyone else who read On Writing? Which lessons stood out to you?

How many hours do you spend reading?

28 comments:

Cristina said...

Yes, I read it last year, and just recently I've been thinking I need to reread it.. because at the time I was just starting out my journey as a writer and sometimes you need to hear things 2, 3, 4 times before it sinks in..

I read avery day, 2-3 hours.... and it's true, you learn what works just as much as what doesn't from other books.

Eric said...

I bought that book a while back, and I consider it mandatory reading for any writer. I try to read in general every day (at lunch if nothing else). It definitely helps to see what tricks others use to get their story told.

Em-Musing said...

Oh baby! I LOVE Mr. King's book, On Writing. And while I'm on my working vacation, I'm reading Mr. King's Duma Key. LOVE it. I need to remind myself that reading is not slacking...it's honing my craft. Does reading on the beach count?

Cherie Reich said...

I have the book On Writing on my Kindle, but I haven't read much of it yet. I really need to do that. *laughs*

As for reading, I've been trying to set some aside to read every day, even if it is for 15-30 minutes. I do find that my writing is better every time I do make the time to read published books (not including the books I read and edit for people).

Heather said...

Thanks for sharing. It has reminded me to put this book on my wish list!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Misha...this is a timely post for me. I had been neglecting my reading habits because of other responsibilities. Nowadays, I try to read atleast few books a month.
I agree that we can learn even from bad books: on how and what to avoid.

GigglesandGuns said...

I re-read On Writing several times and there's something new each time. I'm anxious to read your thoughts.

Bish Denham said...

I read it quite a while ago. Maybe I need to revisit it.

As for other reading...I read every night before I go to sleep. It's an absolute must. Doesn't matter how tired I am, I have to read, if only for 20 or 30 minutes. It's an addiction. And as I'm not a particularly fast reader it can sometimes take me a while to get through a book. And I can only read one book at a time.

Lauri said...

I love King's On Writing, in fact I'm probably due for a re-read. I remember being inspired by how he just kept sending stories out and sending stories out. I totally agree with the reading too, you have to read a lot, and widely I think. The more stories we have in our heads, the better.

Patti said...

I haven't read that book yet, but I've heard great things about it.

Michael Offutt said...

I don't think there are enough writers that appreciate the need to read Misha. I know quite a few that think that the world should just read what they write and that is so not true.

J.L. Campbell said...

I started reading it, but haven't finished yet. Since I started writing on my book review blog again, I've been doing a lot more reading. I have to agree with all those who insist that reading helps writers do better at their craft.

Steph Schmidt said...

Haven't read the book, don't actually plan on reading it either. I learn better by doing something, not harping on the theory endlessly. Reading where another author was brilliant or failed completely is like doing homework to understand a math formula. Practice makes better, never perfect sadly for writing.

Hart Johnson said...

I totally agree. I sometimes am reading for the purpose of BETA reading, and sometimes it is MY work... but I am always reading. Usually I get in about 90 minutes a day (my commuting time) and I definitely learn as much from reading as any of the other things I do to improve.

My favorite King wisdom though is, if you show up every day, eventually the muse will start to show up to (you can't wait for her).

Libby said...

I agree with the need to read. An absolute necessity.

Michelle Fayard said...

Excellent, excellent post, Misha. I'm so glad to be a follower of yours.

Michelle

Terry W. Ervin II said...

Yep, reading has value--even if it takes time. Sometimes we just need to be reminded. :)

Al said...

My answer is very simple: not enough!

Jessica Hill said...

I haven't read ON WRITING, yet. I have it downloaded on my iPod so I can listen to it at work, and it still hasn't happened. I need to get my butt in gear!

I agree that reading is so, SO important for writers. I try to read at least an hour each night during the week (although sometimes I don't get to it) and then I spend 6-8 hours reading on Sundays. I try to get through at least one book a week, and that's usually doable.

Connie Keller said...

On Writing is my favorite writing book.

As for reading, I find that it's the best way to recharge my creativity for writing as well as an opportunity to learn. I read anywhere from an hour to several hours a day (while I eat, run the treadmill, before bed, etc.)

Amy said...

I haven't read King's writing book yet, but now I really want to!

Reading is a great part in writing, it helps teach you things but also gives your brain a rest. I try to read something at least for an hour a day. Great post!

Brad Jaeger said...

There exists in the general population a need to badmouth Stephen King for his copious amount of output (some of which even he admits is less than amazing), but I think On Writing shows what a dedicated, passionate professional the man is.

I loved it and re-read it whenever I feel I need a kick in the ass.

Lynda R Young said...

On Writing is a good read. And it's excellent advice. I try to read every day. There are so many great books out there and it really does expand my horizons.

Jennifer Hillier said...

I've read ON WRITING twice. Once when it first came out years ago, and the second time a couple of years back as I was beginning to write my first book. Because of where I was in my life, I had two totally different reading experiences. The first time I read it, I found myself super inspired by King's personal story. My second time reading, I was glued to his advice on craft.

Hmmm... I wonder what will jump out at me the third time I read it(because there will definitely be a third time!)

Jayne said...

On Writing is a brilliant, brilliant book. It gave me so many insights. Probably the lesson that stuck out most for me was about adverbs. And to widen my reading!

Tanya Reimer said...

I find with this book, the lesson learned will changed depending on where you are in your writing and your life. reread it often. Like the bible. hee hee.

While I'm deep in edits I read my own works about 4hrs a day and others peoples, be it crits, pros or beta reads I limit to 1 hr. Main reason being my eyes go boggy. I could read all day. I love it. I can't get enough. But I do have to work, raise my kids and sleep too. C'est la vie!

Faith said...

Read, read, read. I read more than I write! 'On Writing' was fantastic, wonderful, and full of great advice... but at the same time, it's good to keep in mind that the advice is KING'S idea of one way to write, not THE way to do things. Some of it I disagree with, but it was an excellent read with great points.

Honestly, if someone pointed a gun at my head and said "read or write", I'd pick up someone else's book... heh. I just love , love, love getting lost in someone else's work. If I could read all day, every day, I would!

Rebecca Bradley said...

I love this book! I found it renews my enthusiasm if I'm flagging. He's so passionate about his work and is so honest about it.

I also picked up from him that I needed to read more and this prompted my Goodreads ticker in the bar of my blog about how many books I plan to read this year. I have to say, I'm really enjoying it as well. It's all about trying to find the time to read and write as well as working and looking after a family.