Every once in a while I need to step away from my latest creative writing project and get some fresh perspective on the craft.
On Writing by Stephen King
I’m not a huge fan of Stephen King–I know, I know, this fact outrages a lot of people–or his writing style, this book included. I was required to read it for Creative Writing seminar and didn’t learn much that impacted my writing quality. However, I do appreciate the part of his book where he undermines the allegedly “practical” choice for writers of getting a teacher’s certificate. He “enter[ed] College of Education at UMO and emerg[ed] four years later with a teacher’s certificate…sort of like a golden retriever emerging from a pond with a dead duck in its jaws. It was dead, all right. I couldn’t find a teaching job and so went to work at New Franklin Laundry for wages not much higher than those I had been making at Worumbo Mills and Weaving four years before.” Pursuing teaching for the sake of practicality has been a mistake a lot of my friends made and a lot of adults tried pushing me into. So if you like Stephen King and want to know his long and winding personal success story, or you don’t like him and just want to feel better about your own experience by learning how long he failed for before he got published, I recommend it. Does anyone disagree with me and found some true value between the covers?
On the other end of the writing book spectrum (in my opinion) is Hooked by Les Edgerton. I haven’t finished reading this, but the first half of the book alone has changed my life and drastically improved my writing. I’ve already rearranged and rewrote my first three chapters and they’re definitely A LOT more interesting. The whole book is about how to write the best first sentence, the best first paragraph and the best first page physically possible to hook your readers (and potential literary agents). According to Edgerton, this introduction is the hinge off of which the rest of your plot hangs. The checklists and recommendations apply to both short stories and lengthier novels. If you’re not won over by this summary, take this challenge:
Go read the first sentence of some of your favorite books and short stories. Compare them to the first sentence of your current writing project. See any shocking differences? How each work? Are they both engaging?
And for those of you who think writing textbooks are boring, inappropriate summer reading, then read J.K. Rowling’s short prequel she sold a couple years ago for charity (earning 25,000 pounds!) to give you your Harry Potter fix until tomorrow morning’s Pottermore announcement. (Thanks for the links, Oliver!) I’ll post the video in the morning so stay tuned :]