In this case, actually the more globally famous Stephen King, rather than the one I normally find myself writing about.
A book a number of people have recommended to me in the last year is Stephen King’s ‘memoir of the craft’, On Writing. I’ve not read much of his work and am more than familiar with a couple of the films adapted from his work, so didnt know what to expect really.
It’s a fantastic book. He writes simply and clearly with an honesty which was almost refreshing. Who would have thought that both Misery and The Shining were about him dealing with addiction. But, whilst the ‘CV’ section – loosely a short and concise memoir of how he got into writing was interesting, amusing and enlightening, it was the section on how to write that was most rewarding. As discussed here, the way I write, especially with regards to my work has become a bit of a preoccupation recently.
Whilst there were a number of nice stylistic and formal tips for writers in the book – avoid adverbs, never use the word ‘very’, for starters – it was some of the more fundamental points he makes which I found myself agreeing with the most, normally whilst thinking that whilst they were basic tips for writing, I’m lazy and often forget…
Firstly : Kill your darlings . In other words – don’t be afraid of getting rid of something – an idea, an insight, a point, a strategy. Especially if it doesn’t fit or doesn’t work. Don’t get sentimental about your ideas.
Secondly, a loosely related to the point above: If a gun is on the mantel in Act 1, it has to go off in Act 3. Why set something up in a document if it never gets resolved?
Thirdly – what is your version of Edgar Wallace’s plot wheel? Basically an early version of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategy Cards: a way of muddling through problems when no obvious answer exists!
Lastly: write with the audience in mind. Obvious, but easily forgotten. Who are you presenting to. What will they comment on and what will they notice?