I have been re-reading this book by Stephen King; it’s part memoir, part writing manual – if there could ever be such a thing. At the end he describes the accident that nearly killed him. A Dodge pick-up truck hit him by the side of the road – he was lucky he survived. I first read the book absolutely yonks ago – certainly before I had the children. Some of it stayed with me – more, in fact, now I read it again, than I realised. Things like, ‘only God gets it right first time’ and the idea that you have to put the first draft in a drawer. Oh yes. You walk away from it…. for like, six weeks minimum…
I had to buy ‘On Writing’ again, to read it again. (I substituted a pronoun there, the master himself would be proud.) I had to buy another copy of the book because the first copy is long since gone.
I am glad I did
I have spent today wading through my own writing treacle. Trying to make something out of not very much. Strangely, I think I have. To misquote another writer, I have applied the seat of my pants to a chair which is all writing is, after all, unless you are Philip Roth – who stands up. Anyway, after more than twelve hours at it, I finally hit something like a groove and now I don’t want to leave it. The marathon culminated with me writing the single most upsetting scene that I have ever tackled. I didn’t know I was going to do it, it just turned up in the narrative. Let me assure you, this happening in non-fiction is very unnerving. But it fits well with King’s idea that storytelling is simply uncovering a fossil – he believes it (the story – more pronoun fixing up there) is already waiting for you in the ground – you just have to brush the dust and dirt away to reveal it.
I don’t especially care for the kind of genre fiction that King turns out and has made his money writing, but I’d bet my last stake that it’s bloody well written, and ‘On Writing’ the man is on the money.