I picked up Steven King’s On Writing for 50 NT at a yard sale a couple of months ago. And this weekend, I actually read it. I’ve never read Stephen King, even though I loved Carrie (especially the opening scenes) and The Shining (can’t bear to watch that one all the way through, I just watch couple of scenes at a time). I haven’t read Stephen King, not because I am snobby about not reading popular fiction, but….anyhow I digress….
I don’t think of myself as a writer of prose, despite that, I really enjoyed reading ‘On Writing,’ and found it useful. It was like reading a good book on how to be a plumber, and I respect plumbers greatly, which is how I think of my job as an editor-making sure the shit drains out properly.
King is full of good advice about how not to write sentences like the following:
He sat stolidly beside the corpse, waiting for the medical examiner as patiently as a man waiting for a turkey sandwich.
And yes, he disapproves of adverbs-the fig leaf of timid writers. Actually the entire section on grammar is pretty interesting, makes me want to go looking for my copy of Wren and Martin (or Strunk and White as King would prefer).
The best thing about the book is how it tries to demystify the process of writing. King is very generous about discussing his writing process, and how he edits his work, its designed to encourage one to try, rather than intimidate you into thinking, “I can’t do this, because I am not a genius like x, y, z.” He is more like your favorite uncle, whose advice you are actually inclined to take.
And now for something completely different. When I was an assistant editor on “Michael Moore Live” (yes that Michael Moore), one of the segments in the show was, ‘naked re-enactment of the news,’ we had it because the show was for the BBC, and censorship laws are quite different in the UK. For one of the shows we re-enacted Stephen King’s accident on a country road in Maine. The guy who played Stephen King, looked so much like him, that it’s impossible for me to think of Stephen King as anything but stark naked. Kind of makes it interesting to read anything by him, even the part where he tells you to stay away from adverbs and be sparing with verbs of dialogue attribution.