Stephen King’s “On Writing” (part three)

stephen-king-on-writing-d1d225f2c6e25fcd45dce87de1f77d4d6e695e5f-s6-c30So I took my own advice and read while 10 inches of snow blanketed the area. Today was a true snow day for me as I worked from home because of the road conditions. But, I’m not complaining, I didn’t want to go outside when the wind chill was negative 42 degrees.

Here is a continued list of advice from Stephen King’s memoir, “On Writing”

8.) It’s possible to make a good writer out of a competent one

King doesn’t hold back for fear of hurting reader’s feelings when he says it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer and it’s also impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, but “it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.”

9.) You must read and write…a lot

King tells readers that if they want to be a writer, they have to do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. Building off of that, King continues and says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.

10.) Write one word at a time

In an interview one time King told a radio talk-show he wrote one word at a time. “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like “The Lord of the Rings,” the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

11.) The material is the boss

King talks about being asked why he writes the things that he does. He says that question is asked under the assumption that the writer controls the material instead of the other way around.

12.) Write what you like 

Most people say to write what you know. King says to “write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendships, relationships, sex and work.”

13.) What you know makes you unique

Even though he said to write what you like, he notes that what you know makes you unique in some other way. “Be brave. Map the enemy’s positions, come back, tell us all you know.”

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Tuesday afternoon fiction workshop

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Write what you know
Can you write about what you don’t know?
Write what you know about what you don’t know

Whatever works, works
Put the pen to the paper
Keep your schedule
Whether it is a cup of coffee that helps or a special song

How many hours do you want to write a day?
Three or four
How many do you actually write?
One or two

Do you write better in the morning
Or at night?
Morning
Do you write every morning?
No

Good writers borrow, great writers steal
Isn’t stealing bad?
Not when you make it your own

Steal from Hemmingway
How?
Use short to the point sentences
Anyone else?
Steal from Munroe’s plot development

“There’s nothing to writing, all you do is sit at the typewriter and bleed”
Hemmingway said that
“I didn’t know the kind of thing I was going to write, I just knew I was going to write-I just had to.”
Munroe said that. 

Take Ardizzone’s advice
Novakovitch, Gardner, Fitzgerald
Read them all
Write your own Gatsby. 

A conversation with a writer

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I’m happy to introduce my first interview of the series Collecting Conversations. First up to the plate is Andrea, a 25-year-old freelance technical writer who writes textbooks on Microsoft Office software. She has a writing degree from the University of Tampa and hopes to be successful at creative writing one day.

The best part of her job is she gets to work from home and doesn’t have to deal with office politics. Also, Andrea’s name can be found on Microsoft Office software textbooks. Cool, right?

After years of writing before, during and after college, Andrea has a lot of knowledge to share on the subject.

Andrea doesn’t remember the exact moment she began writing, but she remembers being young.

“I’ve always been a reader. As a kid I would carry books with me everywhere I went (and I still do),” she said. “I guess one day I decided I wanted to try writing.”

She enjoys both fiction and poetry. Ultimately she wants to write fiction but she loves poetry and doesn’t want to stop writing it.

Her proudest writing accomplishment has been having poems published in an online journal.

“To me having my own work published is a much bigger accomplishment than getting my name on a book I wrote for someone else,” she said. “I will always remember the first time my own words were published.”

She has learned she can survive writing boot camp.

Andrea finds it harder to start writing than keep writing. She recalls her first year of college as a writing major and refers to it as boot camp, saying it was hard to be vulnerable.

“You spend a lot of time writing your deepest most intimate thoughts and then listen to everyone bash it to pieces,” she said. “If you can take that criticism and weed out the crap and let the rest of it help you then I think you’ll have a much easier time to keep writing.”

She doesn’t keep a writing schedule but wishes she did saying, “I’m just not to the point where I can sit down and say ‘I will write now.’ It doesn’t work that way for me.”

She has learned it’s hard to make time for writing.

“Life gets in the way of most things, but I think if you really have a passion for it, you will make the time,” she said.

Her childhood has been her biggest inspiration. She said she remembers random, insignificant moments from being a child and turns those moments into a story or poem.

She learned not to give up.

There comes a point when most people who have dipped their feet in to writing want to give up. Andrea said she almost gives up everyday, but by sticking with it, her writing improves.

“I’m a perfectionist who could spend an entire day rewriting a sentence,” she said. “I stick with it because nothing makes me happier than that moment when I find the right words to express what I’m trying to say.”

We ended the conversation with advice she would tell other writers or aspiring writers.

“I think you can’t be afraid to write in a medium or genre that you don’t like. I never thought I would ever become a technical writer but I actually enjoy it and it helps my other writing,” she said. “I would also say to really get into poetry. So many writers seem to want to write fiction but never get in to poetry. Learning how to write poems help make your fiction stronger, they go hand-in-hand.”

A look at a few of the questions:
What is the best advice you’ve ever received on writing?
I had a professor tell me that words fail and that once you get over that it becomes a lot easier. I didn’t get it at first but now that I do I’ve had a much easier time writing.
and the worst piece of advice you’ve received?
I think most advice is bad when it comes to art. I’ve been told to not write offensive things, which to me is ridiculous. Life is offensive.
What is your favorite book, short story and poem?
My favorite book of all time is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I read it all of the time and each time I find something new to love. My favorite short story is a tie between White Angel by Michael Cunningham and Dance in America by Lorrie Moore. And my favorite poem is This Hour and What Is Dead by Li-Young Lee (honestly I love anything by him).
Best movie you’ve seen lately that was adapted from a book?
Stand by Me is my favorite movie of all time. It was adapted from a Stephen King story. I did just see The Perks of Being a Wallflower and thought it was an amazing adaptation. I love both the book and the movie.

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Kindle Fire: the one-night stand of ‘books’

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During my senior year of college I decided I wanted/needed a Kindle Fire. It is a cool device, but I’ve found the only time I use it is to connect to the Internet or play Fruit Ninja. I’ve even downloaded books, but haven’t read them using my Kindle yet.

I prefer reading an actual book. Since I bought the Kindle, I’ve purchased at least five physical books. It’s a preference thing; just like some people prefer to write by hand and some prefer to type. Therefore I’ve decided the Kindle Fire is the one-night stand of books.

No, but really. If a Kindle Fire and similar e-readers were people, they would be the boy with the aviators, smiling displaying dimples and white teeth or the girl with flowing hair and rose lips strolling with a coffee cup in one hand and a yoga mat in the other.

Both would be attractive, inviting you in.

They would be the people you text at 2 a.m. claiming you simply want to watch a movie and hang out. They would be the person you meet at a dim-lit bar and spend the evening with before you wake up, slip your clothes on and sneak out the door; only washing the night away with a hot shower, work out and coffee.

A book would be the person who surprises you with witty humor and quick responses; attractive but not arrogant and intelligent but not patronizing.

You would find you want to go on dates with them and spend more time hanging out during the day, instead of the after-midnight hours. You would listen when they spoke without staring at their lips, thinking you would like to rip their clothes off (okay, you would still think about that).

A book would be the one you take to meet your parents. The Kindle Fire would stay hidden away in a different area, and might as well be a different world.

The Kindle Fire is great to get on to Facebook for the 208th time and play Angry Birds, but, turning the pages of a book and getting to know the characters until you shut the book with a sigh, is more satisfying than any Kindle quickie.*

*In no way is this post an exaggeration or this footnote sarcastic. 😉

Motivational Monday

I was listening to a radio station recently and the announcer said a study has shown people don’t smile before noon on Mondays. Given, I don’t know where the study originated or if it has any truth to it, but what is it about the beginning of the week that causes people to have the Monday blues, be grouchy, etc.

Friday and the weekend are five days away so we might as well make the best of it instead of wishing time would speed up. It goes fast enough already.

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Dive deeper

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Seek new horizons

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Be your own compass

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Get a new perspective

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Take the time to read

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Unplug

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and don’t take yourself too seriously

Unopened magazines

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I have a bad habit of buying several magazines before I can open one of them.

For instance right now I have unopened copies of Vogue, Self, Glamour, Fitness and Vanity Fair sitting on my bedroom floor.

Something about all of these magazines convinces me I need to buy them. Reasons range from a strong, independent person on the cover who I admire, a good work-out plan or a special, holiday issue.

I also have a habit of leaving my room messier than it should be because I spent the day working or because I don’t have time to clean it.

Usually I don’t think twice about this, but I read something recently – I believe on Thought Catalog – that said something like  “don’t use being busy as an excuse to be lazy.”

Just because I worked during the week and have been busy this weekend helping my mother after she had foot surgery doesn’t mean I should use that as an excuse to be lazy.

So for tonight I hung up a few clothes and opened up a “new” magazine. Take me away Vanity Fair comedy issue.