July 25, 2011

Stephen King's On Writing

I am not a fan of Stephen King. I like some of his short stories, but I've never managed to get through an entire Stephen King novel. I find them long and boring and failing to deliver on the premise described inside the book jacket or back cover. However, as I'm trying to learn more about writing, I found that several authors reference his book, On Writing. Finally, I decided to read it for myself.

It is probably my favorite Stephen King book now. Part how-to and part autobiography, On Writing gave me a lot of good advice, and timely since I'm starting to edit the first draft of my novel. I don't agree with everything he suggests, and I found some advice somewhat hypocritical since I don't think he follows it himself, but the book was very useful to me. Without giving away the entire contents of the book, I came away with three major areas to work on:

1. Write more
2. Let the situation and characters dictate the plot
3. Kill your darlings

The best way to write better, King advises, is to read and write a lot. I've always read a lot, and I still read whenever I have the chance. With my Kindle app, I can now read all the time without having to carry a book around. However, I don't write as much as I should. I write mostly on the weekends and sometimes at night. King recommends a more rigorous writing schedule. He writes a minimum of 2,000 words a day. Legend has it that John Grisham wrote for two hours every morning before work. I clearly need to carve out more time to write.

Stephen King likens writing a novel to unearthing a fossil. The story is there, buried under the dirt, and the writer's job is to find it. The way to discover your story, King says, is not to think of the plot beforehand or write outlines. He starts with a situation and a small number of characters in the situation, and from there, he lets them lead him forward. I mentioned in a previous post (also inspired by On Writing) that I wanted to try this for my next book. I am a planner by nature, so I don't know how well it will work. We'll see.

The third bit of advice that struck me was King's phrase of "killing your darlings." By that, he means that nothing you write is sacred. No matter how much you like a character or scene, if it hinders the story, you need to remove it. I'm going to keep the phrase in mind as I go through my editing process.

There's lots of other good advice in the book. I recommend any writers who are interested in improving their skills to read it. Also, it made me want to read The Stand. Maybe I'll finally be able to finish a Stephen King novel.

July 19, 2011

Bye Bye, Borders

Borders Group, the nation's second-largest bookstore chain, announced that it will liquidate and close its remaining 399 stores. Borders filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and failed to find a buyer to keep it alive. While not completely surprising, this is still sad news for me. I loved going to Borders and missed it when my local Borders closed last year. On a semi-related note, I went to a shopping mall last weekend to watch the latest Harry Potter movie. I got there an hour before the movie started and wanted to browse in the meantime. My first instinct was to hit the mall's bookstores, but when I looked at the directory, I found that the mall had no bookstores! I know that ebooks are gaining steam, but I miss those brick-and-mortar book retailers.

July 16, 2011

First draft done!

A month ahead of schedule, I finished the first draft of my YA sci-fi book! This first draft was handwritten in a notebook. Yes, in this age of laptops and word processors, I'm still writing long hand. I'm very excited about reaching this goal because it makes it even more likely that I'll meet my New Year's resolution of publishing the book by the end of the year.

The next step is to type up the manuscript and edit it while I type it. Since I've been writing on and off in spurts, I'm sure the story won't flow as well as I'd like. Hopefully, I will be able to fix some of the obvious faults as I type. The plan is to spend a month on typing and editing. By the end of August, I want to have an edited version of the manuscript that I'm happy with and won't mind sending out to others to proofread.

July 11, 2011

Blogs I follow

The more that I'm learning about self-publishing, the more good blogs I discover. All aspiring writers should read these blogs, whether you're planning to self-publish or go the traditional route -- although you will likely decide to self-publish after reading them :-).

Some of my favorites:

  • A Newbie's Guide to Publishing - IMHO, if you can read only one blog, Joe Konrath's is the one to read. It's the one that got me started on the self-publishing kick, and there's always insightful information and opinions.
  • Write to Publish - I like this blog because not only does it talk about the business of self-publishing, but it comes from the point of view of someone who is running a small press publishing company, so you don't just get an author's point of view.
  • The Passive Voice - this is a good blog to get an aggregate of the popular postings on the industry. The author of the blog posts several times a day, and it almost feels like a feed of other blogs and articles.
  • Let's Get Digital, Digital - David Gaughran is another indie author who writes insightful posts about the industry. Think of it as a less influential/popular version of Joe Konrath's blog.