On Writing

Although the hardcover edition of Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft was published in the year 2010, I read it just recently. Interestingly, the book has three forewords. A long memoir section called “C.V.’ follows. A five-page section called “What Writing Is” precedes a longer section entitled “Toolbox.” A 108-page section called “On Writing” follows. “On Living: A Postscript” follows. The next section, “And Furthermore, Part I: Door Shut, Door Open” shows how and what to edit in a manuscript. The concluding section, “And Furthermore, Part II,” contains a list of books Stephen King recommends.

In the first section which is solidly honest, King recounts episodes of his childhood and adolescence, his marriage, his education, his teaching career, and his beginning and eventually successful attempts at publication. He interweaves stories about his family, his struggles with alcoholism and drugs, and his work with moments that stimulate thoughts about writing. On page 37, he says “…good story ideas seem to come literally from out of nowhere, sailing right at you out of the empty sky…recognize them when they show up.”  His first face-to-face introduction to editing occurred when he turned in an article to a newspaper editor who edited his submitted article right in front of him. The editor told King to “…write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door closed.”

In the short second section, “What Writing Is,” King expounds on the reality that writing and the resultant reading are a form of telepathy. What the writer writes, the reader sees. He encourages writers to take their writing seriously.

In “Toolbox,” he uses his uncle’s heavy toolbox full of every necessary tool as a metaphor for the writing kit every writer needs—vocabulary, grammar, and understanding of paragraphs (which he calls “maps of intent.” He refers to Strunk & White, model writers, and points out the mistakes a competent novelist must avoid.

In the next chapter which has the same title as the book, “On Writing,” King discusses good and bad writing and good and bad writers—both historical and contemporary. He emphasizes the necessity of loving writing and being willing to devote considerable time to writing. He also underscores the importance of reading novels saying, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” In fact, King states, “Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.” He discusses his own writing schedule and says, “I like to get ten pages a day which amounts to 2000 words.” He believes that stories and novels are made up of three parts: narration, description, and dialog. He adds that he believes “plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” King goes on to discuss his own approaches to the aspects of writing he introduces in this chapter. He discusses writing classes, finding an agent, evaluating novels, and other intriguing topics.

 “On Living: A Postscript” illuminates the painful reality King lived through in 1999. An erratic driver hit him while he was walking on the side of the road. He details his injuries, his surgeries, and his recovery. He also states that the book he was working on prior to the accident was his book On Writing, which he proceeded to complete. This chapter makes clear, as did other chapters, the love he feels for his wife, Tabby, and the terrific support she has and continues to give him.

In “And Furthermore, Part I: Door Shut, Door Open,” King provides an unedited piece of a manuscript and follows it with a copy of the same document hand edited to demonstrate how editing occurs.

The final section of the book, “And Furthermore, Part II: A Booklist” provides a list of books that Stephen King thinks have had an impact on his novels.

I was looking forward to reading Stephen King’s On Writing. I was not disappointed. In fact, I was intrigued, amused, and grateful for his honesty and knowledge. Every writer attempting to write anything could benefit from reading this book. I intend to reread it again and again.

My Writing Goals for 2023

Continue to work on my poetry.

I continue to meet my goal of writing one poem per day, on the best of days and on the worst of days.

Submit poetry to contests/awards:

The announcement of a poetry contest appeared in my inbox. The theme of the contest happily matched the topic of poems I had written this year. I got to work, edited them, and sent off ten poems to the contest.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

This month I deepened my understanding of the foundation of the storyline.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I did not work on this novel this month.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers AllianceThis month I hosted a BWA Poetry Circle featuring Wilnona Marie, one of the And I Thought Ladies. She presented a process to approach writing a poem based on generating adjectives and building the poem from the list of words.

I also participated in Gary Alan McBride’s Writers Who Read group in which we discussed The Candy House by Jennifer Egan.

Denver Woman’s Press Club: I read the newsletter and attended the club’s 125th Anniversary celebration. I also attended a session Page Lambert presented. She donated a copy of her book In Search of Kinship to each member of the audience.

Women Writing the WestOur critique group has not met this month yet because we had to change our meeting date. I did send my 2000-plus words to the group.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers RMFW is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year. I listened to a podcast that Mark Stevens conducted with the co-editors of the upcoming 2024 RMFW Short Story Anthology, Linda Ditchkus and Paul Martz. They are both science fiction writers. The theme they have chosen for the anthology is “Colorado’s Changing Climate.” An important topic.

This year I plan to monetize my blog:

I did not work on this topic this month.

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month 2023:

Today is the seventh day of April. I am posting my fourth blog for 2023. After a ridiculously cold month of March, I am happy to experience the arrival of April. Unfortunately, the last six nighttime temperatures have been in the tens and twenties. Today’s temperature is normal for April, so spring might be on its way!

April 7th in History:

On April 7, 2003, Jeffrey Eugenides received the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his novel, Middlesex, which happens to be one of my favorite novels of all time.

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