Every life has defining moments. The day you meet a future spouse, the birth of a child or a crazy idea that you just know will change your life. Ten years ago, on a sad and lonely business trip (this is a poor me statement if I have ever heard one), I picked up a book in an airport book store. Knowing me, I was probably wandering aimlessly, dreaming of doing great things with my life and knowing that it didn't include my current gig. Always being an avid reader I would frequently browse the bookstores in airports, often picking up random titles in hopes of actually learning something. A book by Stephen King caught my eye, and without thought I picked it up.
Okay, so this is the part of the story that needs a little background filler. I will try to be quick. I have always enjoyed writing. Some of my classes that required writing were my favorites. Pretty much I like to make stuff up and find creative ways to put it on paper. It has always been in the back of my mind that I would one day like to write a book. Not enough to major in English or actually pick up a pen during the eleven years of pharmaceuticalling (I know that's not a word, but it gives me the giggles). But always in the the back of my mind, nonetheless.
Imagine my surprise when the Stephen King book I picked up was titled "On Writing: a memoir of the craft". I think I actually saw clouds parting and heard angels singing, "ahhhhhhhhhh". All the old dreams I had about writing came back and I felt that rush of adrenaline. My surge of motivation left as quickly as it came, when I boarded my plane and decided to be a workaholic instead of a budding author. Over the last ten years, the writing dream has made appearances. However, in the midst of overworking myself, leaving my job to raise my kids and starting tiny by design, I simply kept it warm on the back burner. The book, On Writing, has moved with me five times and has survived dozens of "clear out the clutter" projects. I would pick this book up, turn it over in my hands and swear I would read it one day, before dusting it off and placing it back on the shelf. Well, to make a long story short, I now have actual stories in my head. These stories are rattling around up there, making more noise than both of my kids put together in a room full of "singing" toys. They won't leave me alone until they are on paper. When I picked up "On Writing" a few weeks ago, I knew the time to read had arrived.
During my eight hour journey to visit two very dear friends (1,459 miles away to be exact), I read 90% of "On Writing". I learned so much from this book and can't wait to apply it. The book was informative and Mr King is honest and candid about his approach to writing. It gave me some tangible things to work on including writing style and grammar. But, more important, it gave me courage to just write the story. Before reading "On Writing", I was trying to do all my research, come up with a plot, an outline, all the character details . . . the list goes on. Stephen King is a true master story teller, and I believe him when he says that those fore mentioned ingredients will lead to a bad book. The best thing that a writer can do to write a good story is to sit down and write the story. Characters will develop, themes will become apparent and everything will fall into place.
A few points that stood out and applied to how I would like to approach my writing:
- to be a writer you have to read a lot and write a lot (What a great excuse to start reading fiction again! See ya later "i don't have the time" excuse!)
- dialogue more than description will define characters - "use only a few chosen details that will stand for everything else". Let the reader's imagination paint the physical picture and the words of the character will bring alive who they are. (Okay, so vulnerable moment here...I am admitting out loud that I have little to zero experience writing dialogue. There's a first time for everything? But, I think, I totally get this point!)
- pay attention to how people around you behave and then tell the truth about what you see. (Well, let's just say, I have a lot of interesting people around me! Don't worry, I will change the names to protect those who I love.)
- simply tell the story and then, if necessary, add the bells and whistles later (oh, man! I do love my bells and whistles)
- draft one: write the story as it comes, putting down exactly as it is in your mind and write with no outside help - then let it rest for a while. Mr King recommends 6 weeks. (This one will be tough, as I am known for reaching out to people on what color of socks I should wear...all the decisions are mine alone?? Good thing there is a draft #2)
- draft 2 = draft 1 - 10% (what if I am an adder inner?)
- write for your ideal reader...your I.R. I wish I could say this person is my husband, Dane...I literally tell him everything. However, in this case I am going to try to keep the story to myself, to the best of my ability. My ideal reader is my first love, my dad. He reads more than anyone I know and he loves a good story. Period. (I broke this pretty bluntly to Dane...and he took it well. As usual, he knows. Besides, he doesn't really read this blog so to get a commitment out of a book . . . might not have happened anyway.)
Okey Dokey, so there are at least 400 other points from this book that I could touch on, but I cut out 10%. Ha, just kidding. There are so many other points and I have plans for a re-read. I couldn't put "On Writing" down so I read it all at once. On a different day, different advice might stick with me. As it stands today, these are the ones I intend to run with. The main point being...just get writing.
On a parting note, my close friend Kim (author of the wildly popular Design Thoughts Blog) had a recent post that has truly impacted me. Kim, I am ready to "Burn the Boat". If your curious about what I mean...click here. If you love interior design...click on any one of the links in this paragraph and be prepared to fall in love; Kim's Design Thoughts is fun to read and full of great design and life insight.
happy day - may you have a life changing moment today