Friday, June 3, 2011

On Writing, by Stephen King

Coming up with recommendations for writers is a sticky business. For me, that is. I can’t avoid my own eclectic tastes spilling over into my work, and for some reason I feel as if I should temper my output toward what’s more generally acceptable. But after a moment’s thought, I’ve decided that’s complete crap and I’m going to move on with what I think is best. After all, this is my blog and you’re reading it because you want to know what’s going on inside my head. Anyway, if you find out please let me know.

This week I have no decision to make, though. I’ve been so compelled by one book that I absolutely cannot wait any longer to recommend it to you. Next week I’ll give you something crazy, but for now…I may have touched on this book briefly here or there in previous posts. I’m talking about Stephen King’s On Writing.

Forgive me, but I think so highly of this book that I can honestly say that it is a monument to the craft of writing. A book for writers by one of the masters of the trade, On Writing stands, in my opinion, as one of the last words on how to go about it. Writing, that is. It’s honestly that good.

Here’s the caveat: you maybe won’t like all of it. King gives a bit of an autobiography toward the front of it that I personally found a little irritating. I was in a mooditude when I picked it up and wanted nothing more than for him to get to the #$@!^& point. But I pressed on, and when he served up the main courses my mind gorged itself without shame. If it could be compared to a five star dinner, I was at table with a bedsheet tucked into my collar and a shovel in my hand, bits of food and gravy peppered across my face.

Take, for instance, this little gem: passive voice. I didn’t really know what it was, though I had a sneaking suspicion that it was bad because all things wishy-washy and noncommittal are rubbish. Sure enough, it’s bad. Very bad. What’s worse, I was a prime offender. Blast. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s a harsh mistress when it finally climbs off you and leaves you cold and exposed in the light of truth.

I cannot say this enough: if you are a writer, this book is required reading. No exceptions. Your local public library owns a copy. All your excuses are gone. Go forth, read and learn, and watch your writing transform under your very hands from blah to extraordinary. You didn’t know you had it in you. But you do.

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