Sunday, March 16, 2014

Stephen King's Top 20 Rules.

I generally stay away from writing advice these days.  Not because I don't think I need any advice, but because I'm busy writing and I don't want to muddy the waters.

I spent years reading about writing -- went to the library and checked out just about every book they had...

I also think most writing advice is obvious, or wrong, or contradictory.

But I just came across "Stephen King's Top 20 Rules for Writing"  (Writer, 3/15/14) and damn if they don't all make perfect sense.

Now I read his book "On Writing" years ago and maybe I just internalized all these ideas -- but I don't think so.  I think I kind of came to most of these conclusions on my own.

So here's his rules, with my reactions following. 

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience.

This goes without saying.  But I must admit I'm conscious of an audience as I write -- but the audience is me.

2. Don’t use passive voice. 

I believe -- I hope -- I've trained myself to do this.  This comes from practice, practice, practice.

3. Avoid adverbs. 

I use adverbs, but I try to be judicious about them

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”

I still do this, but again, I try not to.

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. 

The occasional grammar mistake in service to the story is relaxing and letting the story take precedence. 

6. The magic is in you. 

Still working at getting over the fear.  The more I write, the more I push the worry back.  The magic is my magic, it doesn't need to be compared to anyone else.

7. Read, read, read. 

Done, done, done.

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy.

The more I write, the more I realize that it is coming from within, not without.

9. Turn off the TV.

I don't do TV in the day, and as little as possible at night, and only after I've done my writing.  The Internet on the other hand....

10. You have three months.

Well, exactly.  And it's nice to hear him say it.  Any more than 3 months on a first draft and I know the book is in trouble.

11. There are two secrets to success. 

I too have stayed healthy and stayed married...

12. Write one word at a time.

Eventually, if you write enough, you start to realize how the words accumulate if you are steady.

13. Eliminate distraction.

I even close the curtains, and sometimes turn off the lights.

14. Stick to your own style. 

I just write.  If figure what I write is my style.

15. Dig. 

I'm glad to see this advice, because this was the insight that finally unlocked my writing.  That the story is there and I just need to dig it out.  It doesn't come from somewhere else.  Look inside.

16. Take a break. 

Leaving the story alone for several weeks or months takes patience, but it really helps give you perspective.  I generally start working on something else.

17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. 

Assuming I know what the boring parts are -- yeah, that's what I try to do. Again, the more I write, and the more I realize that there is always more where that came from, the more willing I am to jettison material, or move material around, or let nicely written but out of place material go.

18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. 

As I mentioned yesterday, I do the research after I do the first draft.  May be backward, but it makes the story the most important part.  The fleshing out, the making it seem real, that comes second.

19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. 

Again.  Done.  In a big way.  I write constantly, and I spent decades reading a book every couple days.

20. Writing is about getting happy. 

I've learned that I like writing -- especially the first drafts -- and I'm happy when I've put the work in the make them better.  (Though I still have a hard time enjoying rewrites, I do like the results.)

Anyway -- way to go Stephen King.  (Like he needs my approval.) 

I like all these suggestions.  They're pertinent and not overbearing and straight to the point.  

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