I have been pleasantly surprised by Stephen King’s book On Writing. At first I just dismissed it. What does a horror writer have to teach someone who writes about theology, fiction that reads like a Wodehouse novel, and other little memoir-ish pieces?
Well, a lot actually. For one thing, Stephen King is not limited to horror. He’s a very, very funny writer. I began reading this book in bed on Tuesday night and soon found that I was on page 60 without even realizing it. The candid stories of his childhood adventures are laugh-out-loud funny. I also see myself in a lot of the awkward writing and school newspaper stuff that he was involved in.
The most important thing I’ve learned from King is optimism and persistence. He simply loved to write, and that is enough. He worked all kinds of jobs and still kept at his writing. The nail on the wall that held all of his rejection letters soon was replaced with a large stake. And still he wrote novels, novellas, and short stories.
It’s also fascinating to learn about another writer’s habits and where he finds his stories and characters. If anything, I have learned from other writers, including King, to observe people closely.
For example, I had a waitress today who has to be perfect for a book some day. She joked with customers, shared that she double-majored in theater and physics, and someone brought up SM with some French folks at the table next to mine. Then she dropped their brownie.
Ah, the old adage: truth is stranger than fiction. You just can’t make up stuff like that.