Sometimes we just need a mentor’s kind words to get us going back on track again. And it can pay to have that mentor in a handy dandy book form. One of my mentors is Stephen King. Now I know it may be a bit cliché now, but I’ll tell you what, the man can write and he has millions of readers. You could do worse than study his style and his technique. You should also pick up his view of writing in his book conveniently called “On Writing”.
The first part of the book is something of a biography that gives you an interesting portrait of the man. It covers what he feels are some of his influences and some of the events that shaped the kind of writer he is. It also covers the details of his attempts to crack into the world of publishing and his following success. He gets into his drug addition and his battle to free himself from it. He also talks about the accident that nearly took his life. Frankly it’s pretty straightforward and clear cut, not coming across as indulgent but as a way to give advice about being a writer and telling a good story.
After that he gets into the nuts and bolts of the process itself. He recommends books to use (Strunk and White’s Elements of Style) and gets into his process for creating a story and revising it. Like most writers, he’ll tell you to find your own way of doing things, but he does provide some hard and fast rules that I found very useful. One was to step away from your first draft for a while (a month if you can help it) and come back with a more subjective mind. It does work wonders, you see issues with greater clarity and you also have forgotten some of the really good stuff you put in there.
I see “On Writing” come up quite a bit as a book that most writers recommend to other writers, and I agree. Its like having the man right there helping you along and providing his advice in simple clear terms. King gets to the point and keeps it short. If you’ve never given the book a read, give it a try. Even if you don’t like his advice on writing, his biography is interesting enough to make it worth checking out.
Have you ever read “On Writing”? What did you think of it? Do you have a favorite book or essay from an author about writing? Do you read it from time to time to get you energized about writing?