Stephen King - On Writing


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Thread: Stephen King - On Writing

  1. #1

    Stephen King - On Writing

    I posted this in writings tips/advice, so please forgive the double post. I just wanted to know what people think.


    Up until yesterday I'd managed to successfully avoid reading anything by Stephen King. I never once had any reason to dislike him, I'd only seen his movies. Something told me "Don't read his stuff" and I really don't know why. I thoroughly enjoy reading authors and their works, getting an idea of who they are. One thing that particularly interests me is how writers got their start.


    While in the library the other day I found myself browsing through Biographies/Autobiographies. I came across Kings book entitled "On Writing." Here was a proverbial Catch 22, a King book on a topic I enjoy.


    I read the book in one sitting and found it to be more frustrating than anything I've ever read. I actually found myself putting the book down and taking a walk to clear my head, it annoyed me THAT much.


    I don't know if it was just his way of saying "I write 10 pages a day, but YOU may want to consider starting with 1,000 words a day." Or maybe it was his views on adjectives and pronouns (both of which he hates by the way).


    Basically, I'm just asking for a little advice...or reassurance or SOMETHING to just kinda hit the reset button for me and help me forget I even read that book.


    The one thing that stands out the most, and the one thing I hope to have some advice in regards to, is his utter hatred of the "past" tense. He wants everything to be done in present tense, as if it is all happening as you read it. I sat down to write today and felt as if he were standing over my shoulder, shaking his head at something I'd written. "Frank was a survivor" or is it "Frank is a survivor"?


    "He'd managed to survive three near death experiences..."
    "He's managed to survive three near death experiences..."


    I want to TELL the story and I'm having so much trouble with this right now because that damn book has gotten in to my head.


    Any advice is appreciated.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    If you don't like his advice, don't take it. What's the big deal?

  3. #3
    I didn't rate the book either. So I moved on.

  4. #4
    I actually liked the book far more than I expected to, because - unlike most how-to's - he doesn't presume that you'll get anything out of it. He doesn't pretend that anyone can teach a crap writer to ever be anything other than a crap writer. He acknowledges a truth that's almost taboo in writing circles - If your writing is poor, chances are it always will be.
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  5. #5
    I've read King's, "On Writing," twice in full, many more in parts... I don't remember that bit about him hating past tense. Just about every book I've read that King has written was done in past tense. I also don't like the overusage of pronouns and adjectives.

  6. #6
    I posted in the writing tips section. Basically, I agree with Mike's assessment of the book, although I'm undecided on:

    He acknowledges a truth that's almost taboo in writing circles - If your writing is poor, chances are it always will be.
    Mostly because "poor" is so vague.

  7. #7
    Well, King paints it a different way than Mike did. King says that a good writer will never be great. King believes that great writers cannot be made via practice and effort. A poor writer can become a decent writer, or maybe even a good writer, but only a great writer is a great writer. He does not consider himself to be a great writer.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Kane
    Well, King paints it a different way than Mike did. King says that a good writer will never be great. King believes that great writers cannot be made via practice and effort. A poor writer can become a decent writer, or maybe even a good writer, but only a great writer is a great writer. He does not consider himself to be a great writer.
    Almost, but not quite. King says that bad writers will stay bad writers. Merely competent writers can be turned into good writers, and great writers are a class to themselves:

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen King
    ...while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.
    So, yes, King does say that bad writers will never be good writers. Unfortunately, I don't agree with King on his examples of what constituates bad writing (for an example, see the writing tips forum thread - can a mod merge these threads?). That somewhat sheds doubt on the typology in the first place (unless I'm obviouly a bad writer - and reader - myself...).

  9. #9
    What thread in tips are you referring to?

  10. #10

    Merging

    I wouldnt mind a mod merging the threads, again I just wanted to get an idea of how people felt. Didnt really mean to double post it. King does approach the whole nature vs. nurture concept, and if I recall he does mention that even such an approach is a bit overplayed.

    Although I do remember him saying he is not a "great" writer, I still felt as if he were just bragging at some points. Again, I suppose that is how any memoir can be read, regardless of the topic at hand. I just wanted to express my interest, or disinterest for that matter, with the book.

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