Creative and Memoir Writing With Carol Brennan King January 25, 2023
Good writers learn from other good/great writers. That’s why I did some digging to see what I could learn to share with you this week from Stephen King.
I own Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and I do recommend it. It is not one of those hefty tomes that you wonder how you are going to get through it. You can get a used paperback from Amazon for a little more than ten bucks.
While you wait to get your own copy, join us in looking at some simple statements of great advice from King – the guy that made all the money, not this King.
- Stephen King says you should write for yourself and then worry about the audience. WHY? Because if you sweat pleasing the audience and a perfect first draft, you will never get a finished first draft. The point of that first draft, and every writer writes a first and then several more drafts before he or she has gold, is to get your story down.
Your job in that first draft is to think through who did what to whom, where and why, and then who got in the way. That may sound like a mystery or thriller, or sci-fi. But those words get you to the heart of every single story.
So the first draft is just that, a first draft. Later you can give that draft shape and form and polish.
- Related to that is this bit of counsel: Don’t obsess over grammar, especially in dialogue, but in general, everywhere, especially in that first draft.
I use Grammarly, but I don’t mess with any of their recommended changes until I am in a second draft.
Remember also, few people speak with absolutely perfect grammar. Think about dialogue. Even your own. You don’t speak in complete sentences, do you? And sometimes, the fragments you do hear hardly make sense. That’s real dialogue. Just remember, your reader will give up reading the book when it gets too hard to figure out what is happening.
Try listening to dialogue in the conversations that swirl around you. Then write down what you have heard and consider how you can use it.
That said, this fact never gives you free rein to blow off writing well: grammar, dialogue, and punctuation must be examined with your audience in mind.
Check out https://www.grammarly.com/blog/writing-dialogue/ for some great help in writing dialogue.
3. We talked for some time about the imperative of reading. King says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.”
Carol King (another King) says that reading helps you to recognize good writing and how the writer accomplished that.
It also helps you to recognize bad writing. I read some lines in class from a self-published book (not mine). It did not take long to see some common errors in this book that was not edited. I say “not edited” because the first paragraph I read was littered with the words was and were. No editor would let that get by.
If you don’t know why that is a problem, check out the use of passive and also the use of telling all the time rather than showing.
Google Owl at Purdue Use of passive voice
Or Google Owl at Purdue Changing passive to active
You can find another resource for this point by googling Show, Don’t Tell: Tips and Examples of The Golden Rule
4. The last issue I want to talk about here is the overuse of adverbs. You know the helping words that accompany, but shouldn’t, too many verbs.
For example, The boy who grabbed her purse walked quickly down the street. Really? If it were me, I would have hot-footed it out of there, or at least ran, or tore, or maybe disappeared down the street.
Check out https://prowritingaid.com/grammar/1000014/Why-should-I-avoid-adverbs-in-my-writing for some help with avoiding adverbs in your writing.
See you Wednesday!
And always remember, your job as a writer is to help your reader see in his head what you saw in your head as clearly as possible.