Sunday, August 14, 2011

What I Learned from On Writing

Post by Kerrie 

If you have been following The Writing Bug you know that I just finished facilitating a four-week book study on Stephen King's memoir, On Writing. The participants ended the class by writing an essay. I shared one on Wednesday and here is another.

What I Learned from On Writing

by Maggie Goins

I first read this book ten years ago. I was inspired by Stephen King’s determination which helped him succeed and the knowledge he shared on how to be a better writer. This time, reading it and discussing it as a group, reminded me of how much I’d forgotten, what I need to take on, and what I need to let go. Here’s a summary.

Need to have:
     • The desire to be a successful writer
     • Persistence to get through rejections
     • Good writing skills
Need to do:
     • Read a lot and write a lot
     • Write with truth in dialogue, character, and situation
     • Create a writing space, with a door
     • Set a writing/reading schedule
     • Write the first draft without suggestions from anyone
     • Let a completed first draft rest a while, then share it
Need to realize:
     • The process includes magic as well as skill
     • The story is in charge, not the writer
     • Though research and back story are important, the story comes first

So, now that I’ve re-read and truly studied it, how will On Writing help me with my writing?
I have to say, I’m relieved to know I’m not crazy to believe the story comes to the writer, and that it’s my job to first get it down while it’s fresh. I’ll write the first draft of my current novel, from this point on, alone and for my eyes only. When the first draft is done, I’ll let it rest for several weeks before I read it again. Then I’ll make any changes that are evident before I show it to others for help and critique.

Believe me, I know that my draft will need help. As I writer, I have a long way to go. But, as I learned from Stephen King, the first draft is not the time for someone outside the world I’m creating to tell me what needs to be fixed. I need to get the story written without anyone changing words, correcting punctuation, or saying the story doesn’t make sense without knowing yet where I’m going with it. I’ll welcome all opinions and assistance when the first draft of the story is completed. Before then, it will just be too soon.

Thank you, Mr. King. From one New Englander to another, the wisdom you were kind enough to share in On Writing is good. Wicked good.

What do you think about writing a first draft with the door closed, not allowing anyone to see it until that draft is done and then putting it out there for feedback? 

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 actually like getting feedback while I'm writing. I know where the story is going, so I'm not too worried about someone else influencing it to what they want, but I do like to have someone look over passages that I'm insecure about. Sometimes it's nice to have a cheerleader behind me.

rinib said...

I don't let anyone see any of my writing until my inner editor has had a go at it (which is way past the first draft :)). I may discuss parts that I am having difficulty with, and the story tends to change anyway (whether for good or for bad).

Patricia Stoltey said...

Good post, Maggie. I belong to an awesome critique group and they get to see my chapters as I churn them out. I make extra notes during our verbal critique sessions, then I set everything aside until I've completed the first draft. Only then do I go through the critiques, review my notes, and start making changes. I still try to keep the first draft creative project separate from the rewrite/revise/edit process.

I didn't take the class but I bought a copy of "On Writing" to reread.

bed bug los angeles said...

That is gorgeous post having complete information. Thanks kerrie for sharing as I totally agree that perfect writing needs the things desire and persistence.

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