Over Christmas break I wanted to do something useful for my writing career. I chose to read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I couldn’t have found a better way to spend my time. Not only did King’s book offer useful advice, but it made me feel good. I agreed with his advice over and over. I found that I have similar writing patterns. More importantly, the book made me want to sit down and do my own writing.
One of the things that intrigues me and sometimes bothers me about writing fiction is this: where does the stuff come from? How is it that I’m able to sit down and have stuff simply happen? King’s answer to this is succinct. He doesn’t know. The stuff just comes.
That’s a liberating idea. How is it possible that ideas spring forth, that crazy situations come to our minds, that characters take off on their own, that more stuff happens day after day? The fact is that any chance comment (usually by someone else) or any random observation can trigger the imagination. To paraphrase: If you ask fiction to come, it will.
I don’t mean to say that novels come flying off my computer processor. They don’t. But the thoughts just come. One moment I might be writing a grocery list, and then next I’m wondering about my character who is running for his life because of a bad boss. The ideas pop into my head. Sometimes they come unbidden. When I’m writing something new, I try to compose every day, more or less at a certain time. I strive for at least 1000 words a day. Usually I write more, but I try to be consistent.
What an irony! Although I am trying to be creative in what I write, the only way I can produce that same creativity is by being consistent. By being relentless about a writing schedule. By refusing to let the critic on my shoulder have a voice during the initial, heady, first-draft process.
Should I be worried about that dichotomy? I can’t be. I don’t have time. One of King’s important points is that if God has given you the talent to write, you should use it. Again I must agree. But since that’s the case, the problem is that I need to write as much as possible. I’ve got nearly a dozen unfinished books in my computer. (By this I don’t mean undrafted. I mean I’ve gone through at least one draft, but it’s going to take a few more to have a readable project.) Right now I’m not even drafting something new but trying to finish a project that I started several years ago. (Whoops, where did that time go?)
Speaking of time, that’s another good point. King advises spending a minimum of three hours a day writing. Six would be better, he admits. I have a day job that gets in the way of that ideal. However, it’s still an important goal to strive for. He also advocates reading widely. How else are you going to get better at your craft?
I read King’s excellent book with a pen. I’ll be rereading it with pleasure. In the meantime, I’ll be hoping that the stuff keeps coming even if I don’t have any idea where it’s coming from. To read more about my own latest projects, please visit http://www.drransdellnovels.com