Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic
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I read this book a year or two ago, and I really don't understand why it wasn't showing up on my BL list. But it wasn't, and now it is.
There are a lot of funny personal moments, but the insights on writing are important -- for writers and for readers. I think we have a problem with bad writing these days, but maybe it's because we don't have enough good readers.
So here's this:
Gould [King's editor at the local newspaper] said something else that was interesting on the day I turned in my first two pieces: write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right—as right as you can, anyway—it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it. If you’re very lucky (this is my idea, not John Gould’s, but I believe he would have subscribed to the notion), more will want to do the former than the latter.
King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft (pp. 57-58). Scribner. Kindle Edition. (My emphasis.)
The most important is that the writer’s original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader’s. 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 from a sitting position.
King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft (pp. 77-78). Scribner. Kindle Edition.
This next one I would put right up close to Josh Olson's as a rebuke to those who think they can get away with . . . anything. Writing is hard, in the sense that it requires a commitment not just to doing it but to doing it well.
You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair—the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.
I’m not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I’m not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor (please God you have one). This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s not the moral Olympics, and it’s not church. But it’s writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can’t or won’t, it’s time for you to close the book and do something else.
Wash the car, maybe
King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft (p. 106-107). Scribner. Kindle Edition. (Emphasis King's.)
King isn't perfect, and if he took the following information from The Elements of Style, then Strunk got it wrong, too.
Verbs come in two types, active and passive. With an active verb, the subject of the sentence is doing something. With a passive verb, something is being done to the subject of the sentence. The subject is just letting it happen. You should avoid the passive tense. I’m not the only one who says so; you can find the same advice in The Elements of Style.
King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft (p. 122). Scribner. Kindle Edition.
Active and passive are not tenses; they are voices. Tenses are things like present, past, future perfect, conditional present progressive.
Active voice: I caught the ball.
Passive voice: The ball was caught by me.
Active voice: The managing editor runs the paper.
Passive voice: The paper is run by the managing editor.