Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Writing Class Resumes Plus King's On Writing

Today is the first day of a new writing class term.  This year I'm being ambitious - I signed up for the Mastery class, a class where everyone is there to polish up their masterpiece.  I expect everyone will be very serious and intense about getting everything just right.  The classes in the past have been more of a critique/support group than a class - a light, loving critique group where everyone looks for the best in each other's words before giving any suggestions for change.  There's a virtual group hug at the end with love that's usually unspoken but sometimes is clearly articulated. 

The new class seems more like a class.  The instructor sent out an email with required reading.

I was immediately put off.  To be a writer you need to write - not read - about writing.  And I barely am able to squeeze three hours out of my week lately to work on my novel.  Physical therapy must be a priority and takes up all the time I used to spend writing and then some. 

I am a rule follower for the most part, but rarely on blogfests, so I reluctantly bought the books and started reading one - Stephen King's On Writing.  I don't like King's writing although I love, love, love a couple of his movies.  I don't see the point in reading tips on writing from a guy whose writing I don't like.  But the chapters are short, so I opened it up and started reading last night while doing my PT stretches - multitasking at its best. 

The book was surprisingly good.  I got to page 64 before I stopped to urge my big kids to go to bed.  But I didn't learn anything about writing I didn't already know.  It did make me feel comforted that he also has very cloudy memories of his childhood with distinct memories of certain things, like snapshots in his mind - mostly of the bad things.  And he finds inspiration in things that he observes, things that come to him, instead of searching for stories.  I feel the same way.

I also felt good that I do what he recommends and what I've heard other people say - write the first draft for yourself and then edit for other people.  I can't write fiction or poetry any other way, so I'm not sure if it matters that he affirmed what I do - even if he said to do it differently, I am confident I cannot. 

I write the way I did software development - type it all out and test it later.  You can't test software until it's done - or until it is a full unit at least, the equivalent of a chapter.  I prefer to do edits to my stories when whole sections are done, which is like integration testing in software development.  You have to make sure the parts fit.

Before I developed this strategy for writing, where I vomit the words out onto the page - with a preplanned structure in my mind or on paper - I couldn't finish anything.  This methodology works for me, so I do it. 

Back to King's book.  The book is good, and it was nice to relax and read for a little while.

My feet are propped up on my collection of Jane Austen at the suggestion of my physical therapist.   It's the only book that was exactly the right height to make the bends of my joints be at 90 degree angles.  I think I would rather be reading Emma than On Writing, but I will be a good student and will do what I'm told. 


  1. Homework? WTF!?!

    LOL - you'll be fine whether you read King or any other book on the list. Just do it how it works for you.


  2. Well that's good you already know some of that stuff! Makes homework easier.

  3. I agree about "On Writing" - I think I liked it because it confirmed things I already thought. If it didn't I'd probably say, "Well he's a hack writer. Why should I listen to what he says???"

  4. @Mary - And yet there was not much of a mention of the book in class. If I wanted homework, I would go back to college. I did like the class a lot and remain optimistic.

    I refuse to do the fundraiser though - it's probably the same packet two of my kids will bring home next week. I can't handle any more fundraising with three kids in school (yes, they do it in pre-school too).

    @Alex - I was horrified reading some of what he wrote about his childhood that were particularly gruesome (with long needles) - and yet I couldn't put it down. Maybe I would like his books now.

    @August - I liked how he put his many rejection letters on the wall. I like how he persevered. I will need to keep mine in a drawer or perhaps shred them.

  5. I think King's On Writing is more an inspirational book than anything, although he does get into some stuff about craft, I think he just talks about his process and lets it go from there.

    Good luck with your class, I wish I was taking some writing course.

  6. @Rusty - I wonder why it's 'required reading' for this class. Maybe the facilitator just wants to inspire us? It's more of a formalized critique group/storytime than a class normally - this one is a little different.