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Sunday, 11 December 2011

Writing a novel? Just Do It!

There are hundreds of ‘How to…’ books on the market forwannabe writers and during this semester, I’ve read several set texts on the craftof writing, the most useful one being oReading Like a Writer by Francine Prose (avery apt surname for a writer!).

But the best book I’ve ever read about the creative writingprocess was not on the uni reading list. It is On Writing by Stephen King andis brilliant, not just for the tips on writing but also as a fascinatinginsight into the life of one of America’s most successful writers. 

The man has written a gazillion novels and his estimated networth is $ 400 million so it’s fair to say that he definitely knows what he’stalking about in the realm of bestsellers. I’ve seen most of the film adaptionsbut not read any of his books but you don’t need to be a fan or an aspiring writer to enjoy thismemoir of the craft. This isn’t a book for literary snobs but it’s certainly abook for anyone trying to hone their writing technique and find out what makesthis guy tick.

It’s a great mix of life story and writing advice where hecuts through the crap and is completely honest about the highs and lows of his career (literallythrough his years of drink and drug addiction) and his miraculous recovery froma near fatal car crash.

I’m proud to say that King has Scottish roots and this showsin his completely unpretentious attitude to telling it like it is. He sees his phenomenalsuccess story as being down to sheer hard work. King writes 2,000 words a day and urgeswannabes to read a lot and write a lot. Simple theory- practise makes perfect (oras good as you’re ever gonna get).

"Don't wait for the muse ... This isn't the Ouija boardor the spirit-world we're talking about here, but just another job like layingpipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows whereyou're going to be every day from nine 'til noon or seven 'til three. If hedoes know, I assure you that sooner or later he'll start showing up, chompinghis cigar and making his magic."

The book is packed full of words of wisdom.  I wish I’d read it years ago and realised thatonly timid writers use passive verbs and that “the adverb is not your friend". I’ve got a lot to learn but now that the uni semester is over, it’s time for meto stop reading the ‘How to…’ books and in the words of the great Greek goddessof victory, Nike, just do it!

If you’ve never read the book, it’s not too late to add itto your letter to Santa. Just remember King’s advice about adverbs  and don’t write that you’d screamloudly, be extremely happy, wildly jump around excitedly on Christmas morningand promise to really cherish the lovely gift if you find it in your stocking!  

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