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Posts tagged ‘Writing Instruction’

Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully – in Ten Minutes, by Stephen King

I. The First Introduction

THAT’S RIGHT. I know it sounds like an ad for some sleazy writers’ school, but I really am going to tell you everything you need to pursue a successful and financially rewarding career writing fiction, and I really am going to do it in ten minutes, which is exactly how long it took me to learn. It will actually take you twenty minutes or so to read this essay, however, because I have to tell you a story, and then I have to write a second introduction. But these, I argue, should not count in the ten minutes.


II. The Story, or, How Stephen King Learned to Write

When I was a sophomore in high school, I did a sophomoric thing which got me in a pot of fairly hot water, as sophomoric didoes often do. I wrote and published a small satiric newspaper called The Village Vomit. In this little paper I lampooned a number of teachers at Lisbon (Maine) High School, where I was under instruction. These were not very gentle lampoons; they ranged from the scatological to the downright cruel.

Eventually, a copy of this little newspaper found its way into the hands of a faculty member, and since I had been unwise enough to put my name on it (a fault, some critics argue, of which I have still not been entirely cured), I was brought into the office. The sophisticated satirist had by that time reverted to what he really was: a fourteen-year-old kid who was shaking in his boots and wondering if he was going to get a suspension … what we called “a three-day vacation” in those dim days of 1964.

I wasn’t suspended. I was forced to make a number of apologies – they were warranted, but they still tasted like dog-dirt in my mouth – and spent a week in detention hall. And the guidance counselor arranged what he no doubt thought of as a more constructive channel for my talents. This was a job – contingent upon the editor’s approval – writing sports for the Lisbon Enterprise, a twelve-page weekly of the sort with which any small-town resident will be familiar. This editor was the man who taught me everything I know about writing in ten minutes. His name was John Gould – not the famed New England humorist or the novelist who wrote The Greenleaf Fires, but a relative of both, I believe. (more…)


Tool Reviews: Jeff Gerke’s How to Find Your Story and Character Creation for the Plot First Novelist

Gerke’s tools offer a simple solution to one-sided writing, pack a big punch.

Author, editor and writing coach Jeff Gerke has a pretty damn good theory about writers. And a pretty simple one at that: all things considered, we fall into just two types. (I know, and you thought you were so original!) But his theory stands up. Willing to admit it or not, there are those among us who are great with characters, setting, world-building and description and those who excel at plot…at connecting the dots, telling the story, taking us seamlessly from rising action through conflict upon conflict until we don’t even care who the story is about because we can’t wait to get to the twist at the end.

Unfortunately, the writer who is equally skilled in both plot and character is rare. Most of us tend to lean heavily towards one side or the other. The problem is…for fiction to be truly outstanding, it is vital that it be rock solid in both areas. This can be wearisome and exasperating, especially when we know where our weakness lie but have given up on the idea of any sort of a solution. We’ve resigned ourselves to the extra months of sweat and tears to try and make sense of the ‘other side’ of the writing divide. You know, the one all mysterious and shrouded in darkness.

Luckily for us, Gerke brought along a big flashlight! He didn’t let the insight he had about these two strikingly different writing styles wither in the back of a notebook somewhere. He sat down and did something about it, creating a few ingenious writing tools that offer us a glimpse into the brain of those living on that scary ‘other side’. Once you are actually thinking like a character maven or a plot genius it’s a simple step by step process. There’s plenty of work involved, but stay on the path, and you will have fantastically rich characters and stay-up-all-night plots carrying your novel all the way to the publishing house.


Catch This Article! Writing a Novel: Getting Started by Pia Chatterjee

Routine: Before you start, figure out a few slots of time, preferably about three hours each, when you will write. It does not have to be everyday, though there are some huge benefits to writing everyday, and I’ll get to that when I write about writing the first draft – but for now, assign yourself pockets of “writing time” every week. And during your writing time, please write. Get your sentences down on paper. If you are like me, it will take you at least half an hour (on the good days) to get started. There will be days that it will take you two hours of your assigned time to even start. Don’t worry too much about this. Just sit down during writing time, and sooner or later you’ll have words on your page.

Discipline: Closely related to routine is discipline. All of you know what it means, and possibly already suspect that the writing life requires lots of it. It does. The biggest part of your discipline will be in getting yourself to sit down and write. Please do it. It’s worth it, I promise.

Place: Find a place to where you’ll be happy to write. If you are lucky enough to have a dining table or a spare room, you’re in business. But cafes are great spots too, and a large chunk of my first draft was written in the Boulangerie in Cole Valley, where I grew plump on the delicious pastries and vegetable croissants. Some of the public libraries – especially the Main branch and the Mission branch are good places. Perhaps you can negotiate with your boss and stay at work for a few hours more to write (Horrible idea, I know, but some claim it works.) For me, the main things I looked for were 1) lots of natural light 2) no music 3) moderately comfortable chairs. Your needs will be different – perhaps like Michelle Richmond, you’ll write while listening to music, but please do me one favor – stick to your spot until it loses its magic.

Feedback: I would strongly suggest that you finish your first draft before you seek feedback. As far as I can tell, everyone but the most annoyingly talented write awful first drafts. Mine was abysmal. I had no idea about point of view, my characters were laughably cartoonish, my dialogues were cringe worthy. I began to have nightmares that I would die and my friends would discover my first draft and spend the rest of their lives laughing at my terrible writing. Thankfully, that did not happen. I lived. I wrote a second draft that was much better, and a third draft that I was nearly proud of, and after my fourth I was ready to talk to agents. It worked out. And it will work out for you, too. But seeking feedback while you write your first draft is asking for trouble. Your tactful friends will lie so unconvincingly that you will grow even more insecure about your writing, and your honest friends will be so critical that you will stop writing. This last thing happened to me. I was so undone by such extreme and harsh critique that not only did I stop writing, but I was in so much physical pain that I could barely walk. There will be lots of time for feedback later, after your first draft is done. But for now, just write as often as you can.”

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