Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On Writing Wrap Up

Post by Kerrie

On Monday night, I wrapped up the 4-week book study I led on Stephen King's memoir, On Writing. I have to admit I was a little sad that it ended. I enjoyed re-reading the book, discussing it and getting to know the four other women who were in the group.

Each week I had the ladies read a section of the book, do a writing assignment or two and then examine parts of their own writing. I enjoyed hearing them share each week about what they learned about writing and specifically their own writing. I love watching a writer grow.

For the last class, they were to each write an essay, "What I Learned From On Writing." I enjoyed these so much I wanted to share them with all of you.

Here is Nancy Strong's. I will post the other ones over the next week or so.

What I Learned From On Writing
By Nancy Strong

Stephen King’s book, On Writing, is the most helpful book I’ve ever read on the subject. He establishes an immediate identity with the reader in the first forward stating, “If I was going to be presumptuous enough to tell people how to write, I felt there had to be a better reason than my popular success…What follows is an attempt to put down, briefly and simply, how I came to the craft, what I know about it now, and how it’s done. It’s about the day job; it’s about the language.”

His use of action verbs is inspiring. “The pain was brilliant;” “Eulah-Beluha had a wonderful sense of humor but it was a dangerous sense of humor-there seemed to be a potential thunderclap hidden inside each hand-patting, butt-rocking, head-tossing outburst of glee.”

Descriptions and metaphors like,  “I lived an odd, herky-jerky childhood;”  I screamed so long and so loud that I can still hear it,”  “shitting like a cowboy,” “Our little family troika had moved back to Maine…” “Our marriage has outlasted all of the world’s leaders except Castro,” will forever be an influence.

The ‘toolbox’ idea includes practical help like ”You should avoid the passive tense…  timid writers use passive verbs,” and “the road to hell is paved with adverbs,”  and “Simple sentences provide a path you can follow when you fear getting lost in the tangles of rhetoric.” He emphasizes the importance of ‘reading a lot, writing a lot’ to develop the skill of good description which is “what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story.”                                  

I’ll take with me the “bomb in the closet,” revelation that King describes as “that sudden flash of insight when you see how everything connects,” or thinking above the curve that will save the story when we’re stuck mid-course.

King’s best advice to me personally lies in the statement, “With the door shut, downloading what’s in my head directly to the page, I write as fast as I can and still remain comfortable.” After that first draft is complete, he revises and edits-“it’s the story putting on its clothes, combing its hair, maybe adding just a small dash of cologne. Once these changes are incorporated into my document, I’m ready to open the door and face the world.”

What do you think about what Nancy shared?

Other Stephen King posts:

Stephen King Moment #1

Stephen King Moment #2-Passive Verbs

About On Writing

It’s Good to Be the King


Marlena Cassidy said...

I'm glad that you enjoyed the book study, Kerrie. And Nancy's essay is great. I love all the examples she used in it.

Edna Pontillo said...

Nancy, like you, I found this one of the most helpful books I've read about writing. And I also enjoyed many of the examples you site. My favorite though was just before he lost consciousness when he was hit by the van "Oh my God, I have nearly been killed by a character right out of one of my novels." The man is thinking like a write all the time, even at death's door. May we all think like writers, no matter what! Thanks for your thoughts, and Kerrie, too. Sorry I couldn't be part of the group.

Cathy Webster (Olliffe) said...

That's funny - I just posted about this book too. It's brilliant. Your class sounds wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I've heard a lot of people talk about this book. Many have had the same reaction. "It's the one of the best books I've read about writing." That's it's helpful and very practical.

I'm glad Nancy and the rest of the group found it to be so as well. I've heard many of the pieces of advice quote here and it makes me want to finally get a copy!

When I do I'll certainly repost and let you know my thoughts about it. :)

Dean K Miller said...

I've read this book and enjoyed it as well. I'll be through it several more times to continually reap the knowledge it contains.

Now we get to enjoy your insights and learning in our critique group. Looking forward to that!

Patricia Stoltey said...

This was an excellent exercise for your class participants. Since I'm now in the mood to reread "On Writing," I enjoyed Nancy's thoughts on the book and will look forward to reading the reactions from the rest of your group.

Laila Knight said...

Stephen King is a master. The way he captures us and sucks us into his writing is incredible. I've been reading a few posts about this book... still need to buy it. :)

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