Writer Wednesday: Ode to Professor King

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“Most of what writers write about their work is ill-informed bullshit.”

 

 

 

You gotta love Stephen King, if not for his fiction, for the way he sets things straight and to the point.

This is the line that begins King’s rewrite for his novel The Gunslingerking4, originally released in 1970, rewritten and rereleased in 2003.

He rewrote and released the novel – only Stephen King could do that.

In any case, I found his forward notably valuable. His words are not only ever for his readers, but for writers as well.

His approach to revision he says, “hasn’t changed much,” and it is “to plunge in and go as fast as I can, keeping the edge of my narrative blade as sharp as possible through constant use…. Looking back,” he says, “prompts too many questions.”

I agree. I’m one to power through and not consider edits until I’m completely finished. This way I don’t get hung up wondering if this is right, if that flows, should I change this word here? Nothing is finished until the end is on paper, then comes the time for change; however, King puts his work away for a time. I, personally, give it an edit or two or ten. I give it to my friends, I reread, fawn over every word, sentence and…. it still has errors I don’t catch for six months or a year.

king2For the original writing of The Gunslinger, King has this to say about his younger self, “too many writing seminars, and had grown used to the idea those writing seminars promulgate: that one is writing for other people rather than oneself; that language is more important than story; that ambiguity is preferred over clarity and simplicity…”

I was once in one of those very seminars when someone brought up Stephen King, “don’t worry,” the professor announced, “he’ll never be remembered in the annals of history.”

The same professor, the same class, a few sessions later, eyed me after my story had been workshopped and discussed. “I’m still trying to figure out the reason for writing the story.”

“I think,” braved another student, “she wrote it for pleasure, for publication.”

The Professor’s eyes narrowed, her lips thinned, and she sat forward in the old wooden desk, “we don’t do that in this class,” she hissed.

My nervous smile slipped away as silence rose from our feet up. No one moved. No one breathed. One girl had already run out crying, perhaps they were waiting for me. I didn’t want to cry, nor run out, but I’d felt everything I’d done up til that point undeniably wrong.

I learned to write, over the next few year, the way of the MFA, ambiguous, language king5heavy, story slipping under the covers of darkness of words and rhythm.

Stephen King, I thought then and now, by sheer volume and honesty of craft, will not be forgotten. And I’m not sure he cares one way or the other.

I think we can all learn a thing or two from Professor King.

Writer Wednesday: Experience Vs. Research

Someone asked me if I write what I know. For many, that would be limiting. We write what we know in some intuitive way, like people, emotions, relationships, and some places. But that’s not all we write.catacombs

Nothing adds to a story like those little details that you’ve experienced, like the slick, moist, near sickly feel of your skin on a humid day in Paris after emerging from the chilled underground of the catacombs.

The difference in squeezing the smooth texture of black sand from Punaluʻu Beach in Hawaii between your toes and walking on fine, compacted white sand of the Whitsunday Islands in Australia.

blacksandEvery beach is just a little different. Just as the light is, depending where on the planet you stand. Being there helps.

But, research is also necessary. Maybe not to describe the sand between your toes, but other important details about place. Incorporating the general details or impressions as well as the smaller, more personal elements creates a more vibrant and more relatable to readers.

Stephen King thanked his research assistant and stated he met a lot of nice people in Oklahoma where his new book, The Outsider, is set. Experience and research.

Many of us can’t fly to Darrien, Washington and spend a week or longer researching a small town setting in the pacific northwest, but we are able to view maps, read the newspaper, follow the instagram sites, ask travel groups and even call the travel bureau in any given state.wander.jpg

I love experiences – Traveling and getting lost in a new place, picking up those sensual memories to infuse into writing and future!

Experience is a great thing, but it’s not the only thing. Research back ups and fills out details we may have missed.

Where have you been that you’ve written about?

Happy Writing!