21 April, 2013
13 Lessons Learned from Stephen King, and a rant by... erm... me.
For the full-sized picture, please click HERE. This is the largest I can make a picture in a blogspot post, for some ungodly reason.
I wanted to include it on the blog to offer some thoughts. I won't rant much. We're talking about Stephen King here, and his book, On Writing, is among the best of its kind.
All of these statements are golden, but there's one thing I'll say: DO NOT THINK OF THESE AS RULES.
Stephen King wouldn't want that. No good writer would. Nor would a good teacher. This is art, not math. You will find your own interpretation and approach to every problem you face or lesson you learn.
So here's my nit-pick. He says "1st draft - 10% = 2nd draft."
No. Do not expect your first drafts to only need a snip. Unless you're already a very experienced novelist, your second draft will probably involve a great deal more work--quite possibly nearly a total rewrite in order to tighten the emotional thrust. Take it seriously.
Each writer will discover their own approach. For some, the first draft is only an attempt to pin down the story. Paul McAuley, who has been nominated for an award for almost everything he wrote last year (seriously, almost every short story, and the novel) said to me that his first drafts would get rejected from magazines, if he were ever fool enough to submit them. I suspect he was exaggerating, but his point stands. Work on your story until it is the best you can do, not until you think you can get away with it.
But here's the part where I get to sing Stephen King's praises again, and directly related to my caveat, too.
"Teach yourself," he says. Smeg right. Find your own interpretation of what anyone tells you. Learn by practise. Remember what Thomas H. Uzzell said about the average writer needing to hammer out around a million words before developing his or her own style. Write a lot. Read a lot. (Stephen King also says, "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time, and the tools, to write.") Keep doing those and you'll get there. The only expectation you should have is that if Stephen King or whoever floats your boat can succeed, so can you. Every book on your shelf is a monument to the fact that this is an achievable goal.