Saturday Seminar: King Says Con’t

It’s been a bit since I perused through my file of nuggets from Stephen King’s On Writing, but today seems like a good day to think about editing my disaster of a spy novel. In preparation I’ll consider what King says on the topic.

Two drafts and a polish. (209)

Completely reasonable. I’ve written my first draft and now I need to work out a second one.

Revision formula: 2nd draft = 1st draft – 10% (222) 

Oh dear. That could be problematic for me as a couple of my betas have suggested the second half of my spy novel needs fattening. It’s too lean, too rushed, too barren. Perhaps I should do 2nd draft = 1st draft plus 10%?

If what you hear from your betas makes sense, then make the changes. You can’t let the whole world into your story, but you can let in the ones that matter the most. And you should. (219)

Hrm, one of the betas who said feed my novel was the hubs. And realistically, he is always right. Always.

When you rewrite your main job is taking out all things that are not the story. (57)

It’s been suggested I should dump the sex scenes. But other people like them. So I think really the question comes down to, do I need the sex scenes to demonstrate the nature of the relationship or could I just allude to it and keep things cleaner?

When a novelist is challenged on something he likes-one of his darlings-the first two works out of his mouth are almost always Yeah but. (226)

Ah oh. Did I say Yeah, But in the last response? No, no I didn’t. LOL. But maybe the feeling was there.

The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting. (227)

Ok, one of the sex scenes is back story. Maybe I should change that to a one line allusion rather than a half page descriptive.

It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pear, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters. (232)

Alright, I get the point. I should just dive in and see where that second draft takes me. But before I go…just a bit of amusement. Spot the mistake, courtesy of King. 

“Although deer season doesn’t start until November in Maine, the fields of October are often alive with gunshots; the locals are shooting as many peasants as they think their families will eat.”

Saturday Study: King on adverbs

It’s been a while since I’ve dove back into the long list of quotes I distilled from Stephen King’ On Writing. And given the way my life has been going I thought I could use a reminder of just how complicated even the simplest of subjects can be. It’s never black and white. And on that note…

Everyone and their brother can quote King “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” It’s practically tattooed on every author’s tongue so it can slip off in casual conversation. LOL

So what is an adverb? Google says an adverb is a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc.

That’s doesn’t sound so bad to me and certainly not an appropriate paving material for a road, whatever the destination. But King insists “While to write adverbs is human, to write he said or she said is divine.” (128)

So he’s against complicated dialogue tags. Ok, I can see that. Makes total sense.

But King admits he uses adverbs himself.

When I do it, it’s usually for the same reason any writer does it: because I am afraid the reader won’t understand me if I don’t. I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. (126)

Ahh. So if I am concerned the reader might not understand me, I should look for a way to rewrite that doesn’t use an adverb? But here’s where it starts to get complicated.

Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with. (128)

Could I let go of the fear that someone might criticize my adverb use? If good writing is letting go of fear and affectation, then I – you should write what feels appropriate to the novel you are creating. The best arguement for writing what works for you is this…

Even at it’s best writing almost always falls short of full meaning. Given that, why in God’s name would you want to make things worse by choosing a word which is only cousin to the one you really wanted to use? (118)

Write what works, road to hell be damned.

What do you think about adverbs?


Weekend Workshop: Encouragement from King

It seems to me all writers get a little nervous sometimes. They wonder if they have what it takes. Do they have the desire to hoe what has become a very long row to get anywhere in this business? Do they have enough to sustain themselves? Do they have enough ideas to write ten books before anyone notices they’re publishing their little hearts out?

Or am I just a talentless hack who should hang up my keyboard before I get any further behind?

Once upon a time I would have thought it was just me who felt that way, but I know better now. Art is by definition a soul baring, emotional enterprise. And laying yourself open for others to judge cannot help but cause you to question yourself.

Have a few quotes from Stephen King, culled from his autobiography On Writing, apply them as a balm to your aching muse or save them for when the words are mocking you…your choice.

Large numbers of people have at least some talent as writers and those talents can be strengthened and sharpened. (18)

If a large number of people have talent, chances are good that you do too.

ambition, desire, luck, and a little talent all played a part. (18)

See a little talent. You only need a little. You just have to work at it. And be lucky. I’m hoping you only need the luck to be Stephen King famous and successful. I have much less ambition. I’ll be excited when my sales start to cover the cost that goes into the book and maybe a celebratory cocktail. LOL

if you write someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all. (50)

Oh, so the jerks just come with the territory, it isn’t personal. That’s refreshing.

Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit…(77)

When I read about a famous, successful author who feels like all he is doing is shoveling shit, I suddenly feel way better about my manure covered garden spade. And I think maybe I should get a bigger shovel?

The hours we spend talking about writing is time we don’t spend actually doing it. (144)

Point taken, oh wise one, I’m off to write.

In case you’re bored this weekend, why not check out OddMall in Everett. It’s the festival of everything odd, geeky, or weird. Not to mention FreeValley Publishing will be there and you can grab a copy of my book, Scripting the Truth, or any number of awesome sci fi, fantasy, or romance novels written by my compatriots.



Weekend Workshop/Discussion

This might be more of a discussion than workshop but I recently read Stephen King’s On Writing and I noted down a million and one things he said and I want to talk about them a little at a time.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. (145)

This makes perfect sense to me. Whether you read good prose or bad, fiction or non, you are learning the skill, the art, the process, as you read. This cannot help but transfer to the words you write. And the more you write the better you must get from sheer practice.

10, 000 hours=mastery.

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you. (146)

I’m not sure about this one. Mainly because I think what sweeps one person away irritates another.  Just because you are swept off your feet by a sparkly day glow vampire stalker doesn’t mean I won’t drive a stake through his heart first chance I get.

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. Simple as that. (147)

Ok but….

The sort of strenuous reading and writing program I advocate – four to six hours a day, every day (150)

And here is where he loses me. So if I can’t find four-six hours a day to read and write I am not a writer. Or I don’t have the tools to be a writer? Isn’t that a bit rigid? Who says I have to do the 10, 000 hours in one year? If it takes me five years, am I any less a master? Or maybe this just rubs me the wrong way because it’s an impossibility for me now in this place in my life and I don’t want to give up my efforts because I can’t meet his impossible guidelines.

Thoughts on how much time one should devote to reading and writing to be a writer? Do you think reading is an key aspect of writing?

Fiendish Friday: Stubborn

When I was a baby I had this sheet that my mom would spread on the floor before she put me down for tummy time. I inherited it when I got older and on one corner is a picture of a cart driver trying to pull a mule, who has sat on his haunches, forward. Below the picture says T.A. is as stubborn as a mule. I know my mom thought she was being funny, but I think that picture actually programmed my little brain. Don’t want to do something, sit down, put my ears back, and wait it out.

Whenever someone encourages me too strongly to do something I resist. Examples you ask?

A) I had a boyfriend who was obsessed with the movie Bend it like Beckham. When he first brought it up to me, I was like, sounds fun we should watch it. Every time he talked about it though, I got a little more resistant to seeing the movie. Every “you have to watch this” made me more reluctant. Finally I flat out refused. After we broke up, I got a bottle of my favorite wine and watched it on netflix. LOL Pretty darn entertaining actually.

B) Someone once gave me a copy of Dan Brown’s the Davinci Code for Christmas with the note “Read this immediately so I can discuss it with you.” Um, what? You gave me work to do for you, for Christmas? My ass. Still haven’t read that book.

So when everyone and their brother started telling me I need to read Stephen King’s On Writing, you can imagine what happened. Ears went back. I really, really didn’t wanna uh.

Finally I gave in. I did. I read the book. It was actually quite good. I found it super amusing. I have some thoughts about some of his writing advice which I will share over the next few weeks.

Does this mean I am going to read Dan Brown’s book next? Laughing. Not on your life.

So what about you? Stubborn or pliable? Are you grateful when people try to force you into things or irritated?