Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"The place where you made your stand never mattered."

Tuesdays are filling up.  There's the blog, there's work, there's the 1000 words on the train coming home, there's the kettlebell class, and there's the #5 minute fiction over at Write On Wendy.  Good thing we finished "The Mentalist" disc so I don't have to sit through that too...

My freshly licensed driver hasn't driven anywhere yet.  It's been two days.  I totally don't get that.  I'd go to 7-Eleven just to drive.  Maybe even do a lap of the parking lot.  Of course, he's not me and it would be a mistake to presume anyone else is either.

Today's Tool of the Trade is a book.  Don't groan.  It's a good book, a bit salty so not for the younger readers, but good.  It's a book about writing - but not so much the how.  It's Stephen King's "On Writing" and it really surprised me.

Stephen King - On Writing
I have a box in my garage labeled "Writing Books" and in it is my collection of books about writing – most of which I never finished.  I used to think that the more books I owned about writing, the better I would get.  I recently read a blog post that suggested if there were more than 10 books about writing on your bookshelf you had a problem.  I think 10 is probably a good number, especially since there’s the internet now.

Needless to say, I'm biased against books about writing – especially by successful authors as they seem like vanity projects to me.  Sort of like when a band puts out a greatest hits album.  I haven’t bought a book about writing in 20 years (except for the small collection I just picked up on screenwriting, but those are more about format and structure than how to write).

I received this particular book as a gift and didn't put it in the box in my garage.  I didn't start it right away, but I kept it around.  I had heard good things about it back in the day (it came out over a decade ago) and I respect Stephen King as a writer quite a bit - even though I don't care for his books themselves generally.  (I listened to a few in my Isuzu Impulse.)

My copy of “On Writing” sat for a month or so until someone mentioned it to me in conversation, asked if I'd read it.  "Nope, but I have it at home."  Then I read a blog post saying that it was just the greatest.  That post started a twitter conversation that I caught snippets of.  I’m not big on the band wagon, but everyone agreed it was one of the best books ever written about writing.

So I read it.  You should read it too - if you are, or want to become a writer.  It's that good.  I understand why some people read it every year.  More than half of the book is a very well told account of how Mr. King came to be a writing superstar.  Then there's a brief study of grammar, just to make sure you know the most important rules (this list is the same in every book I've ever read about writing).  Then he gets into his method.  Not nearly as interesting - I'm already a writer, I already have a method and what I need is discipline and practice – but still offering some insight into how certain aspects of a story should be worked into the drafts.

I cannot fully express how surprised I was this book.  I thought it would be o.k. but instead, it k.o.'d me.  Talk about a turn around.


  1. My favorite part of 'On Writing' was the fan that sent him the picture of the teddy bear with a gun to his head - to encourage him to write another 'Dark Tower' novel.

    1. I'm rather partial to his description of doing laundry for the local restaurants, hotels, and hospital. You totally get why his books are so odd.