ROWdate 1-15 & On Writing Review

“Captain, the shuttle from the S.S. Carrie is docking in Bay Two. Captain King is confirmed on board.”

“Thank you, Ohura. I’m entering the bay now.”

“Captain?”

“Yes?”

“Can you get me an autograph of his last…”

“No, Ohura.”

“Oh. Okay then. I’ll just sit here 24 hours a day listening for messages because you have to know things immediately. Haven’t been out of the chair in eight years. Can’t even have a crossword, nope, listen, listen, listen and repeat like a parrot…”

“Fine. What book”

“The Stand.”

“Appropriate, replicate a copy into the conference room and I’ll have him sign it.”

“Thank you, Captain. Ohura out.”

Review of: Stephen Kings “On Writing”

People write books. Not legends. Not machine formula’s. People. This is the primary thought that I take away after reading “On Writing”.

Each of us is a different person. Different experiences. Different voice. Different thought. The two things that we all have in common is that we write and we use a process to get our thoughts and visions across through the written word. And in the end of the day the reasons why we write and the process that we use, while there may be some similarities of method, all of it, is unique to the individual writer.

I’ve read a few other reviews of “On Writing” and I can see where others have taken shots at King and this book. Larry Brooks comes to mind the most. I adore Brooks work, Story Engineering is on the shelf next to me as I write this and a book I reference often. Nothing that I am about to say should be taken as “against” anyone. Simple statements.

Larry was not fond of Kings “On Writing” for the same reason that I would bet King would be against Brooks method. Larry is a plotter, an outliner, a master of structure, writing through sensing (tangible/concrete). King writes from and to human emotions, by feel, by the ethereal touch of minds, by intuition (abstract/theoretical). This corresponds to the Briggs-Meyer test, by the way, and I think is a primary factor in the divide between plotters, pantsers and hybrids. One could say it is built into our natures to write and approach writing as we do. King alludes to this on several occasions in the book, although indirectly.

After reading “On Writing”, I can see the advantage of both methods. While intuition matters and writing to emotion is the key to strong fiction, it must be done or at least organized in the end, into some type of structure. King points out at different times in the second section of the book that he “knew” he was coming to an important part of one book or another and therefore had to take a certain action or handle a scene a certain way. This would correspond to Brooks “plot points or milestones”. King just gets there a different way, internally understanding the need. As I mentioned, intuition.

The lesson that I take away from reading “On Writing”, which I must say I devoured, is that each writer must find their own method, their own process and write from their own truth. I, nor any of us, will ever be Stephen King, nor will any of us be able to write using his methods. Stephen, I believe, came to this conclusion himself during the writing of “On Writing”. What he ends up giving is a very basic formula, that can be used to start one on the path to finding their own method.

Read a lot (to “see” how fiction works) + Write consistently (every day, to use what you learn) + follow your own truths (write what you’ve lived, what you understand, what you’ve experienced, what you dream about) + understand your toolkit (language, grammar, etc.).

Do all of this with courage and heart, not for money, not for fame, but because it is your passion and your odds of success will increase. And one final piece of advice from King: If you want to be a professional writer then be one, don’t talk about doing it, don’t aspire; Just be it. Own it. Live it.

Sure there are large portions of “On Writing” that seem to have nothing to do with writing and follow a memoir format, however, I think every part of it shows the reality of the writing life and gives insight into how each of us can find, nurture and unleash the power of our inner writer. King just approaches the subject, writing and life in his own way, which, my friends, is the point.

I would highly recommend this book (and Larry’s) if you haven’t read it yet (or haven’t in a few years). Thanks for reading.

And on to the ROW checkin…

-Write 7k of fiction each week. I exceeded this goal. I’m currently working on a short that has potential, building on a random prompt that I received months ago from a Sonia G. Medeiros flash fiction challenge and am loving it.

-Turn in WWBC assignments on time. Nothing here this week. I plan to take a few hours today to work on the logline and antagonist.

-Treadmill for 30 minutes 5 times a week. I walked Tuesday through Saturday bringing my 32 walks by January 31 challenge with Marcia Richards to 18. I’m still on track to complete the challenge and have started doubling this up with a segment of my daily reading.

-Read one craft book during the Round. Completed “On Writing”, the review is above *smile* I’ll be dropping this one off the list after this update since it is complete.

-Read three fiction books during the Round. I’m on page 156 of This Immortal by Roger Zelazny. Fun book with a clever concept. I’ll be finishing this in the next day or two and will put up a brief review in next Sunday’s post.

-Keep up sponsor duties. All good last Sunday and a total fail on Wednesday. Some weeks my work/family/writing schedule is mega-tight. This isn’t an excuse, it’s simple reality. I also didn’t post an update on Wednesday and there is a strong possibility that this will become a trend, responsibilities are shifting and this is a small adjustment. Life is life and ROW understands that.

I hope you all had a fantastic week and I’ll be touring around to say hi throughout the day.

Peaceful Journeys!

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About Gene Lempp

Gene Lempp is a writer blending elements of alternate history, the paranormal, fantasy, science fiction and horror for dark and delicious fun. He unearths stories by digging into history, archeology, myth and fable in his Designing from Bones blog series. β€œOnly the moment is eternal and in a moment, everything will change,” sums the heart of his philosophy. You can find Gene at his Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, WANATribe, Google+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.
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28 Responses to ROWdate 1-15 & On Writing Review

  1. Great job on your goals, Gene, and review of On Writing! Stephen King is one of my favorite writers and this book I credit for getting me from holding myself back by judging what I was doing against others. I’d read other craft books and listened to the advice of successful authors and was swirling in a circle doing work that was counterintuitive to my strengths. The knowing and owning your own truths part. Every writer must find and then continue to evolve the process that works for them. Have a good ROW week!

  2. I got the same thing out of On Writing. I think King intuitively knows when plot points are needed extra. The story structure is something that comes natural to him and I’d have to say he’s one of the lucky ones who gets to have just a little more fun writing than the plotters do. I lean more towards Larry Brooks’s approach and unfortunately having the whole story planned out and working on it for so long…it starts to feel like work, a project that will never end on somedays. So maybe if there’s a happy medium, that’s where the sweet spot would be for me.

  3. L.S. Engler says:

    You know, I was going to pick up a 700+ book for my Tea & Books reading challenge today, but maybe I’ll finally pick up On Writing. It’s definitely on my list of books to get and read, and I’ve just been hearing so many good things about it. Anything that supports that every writer writes differently is encouraging for me, because my own process is so bizarre that I never even know how to explain it. But it’s just how I work.

    But I think a look into Brooks’ method might be helpful for me, too. So maybe that one. Who knows. I’ll probably wind up with something completely different.

    Thanks for sharing the review, Gene! And great job with your goals, too, as usual. : )

  4. heatherishither says:

    Sounds like you had a good week! I enjoyed your review and am ashamed to admit that I have never read a single word by Stephen King. Isn’t that ridiculous? It’s probably from seeing ‘It’ when I was a little kid and hating it– not because it was scary, but I just hate clowns. Now I’m determined to remedy this.

    Your goals are making me realize how much I slack on reading books on writing. I have several on my Kindle and they are collecting Kindle dust. I’ve also slacked on reviews. Thanks for showing me up, Gene. πŸ˜‰ I’ve got a lot of work to do. Have a great week next week! Keep up the good work.

  5. Stacy Green says:

    Great week, Gene. I’m envious of your word count and perseverance on the exercise front. I need to buckle down with that this week. And thanks for the review of On Writing. I think you’re spot on in that every writer needs to find what works for them. Yes, there are elements of fiction every successful book needs, but I don’t think there is any patented, “right” way to get there.
    Good luck this week!

  6. I looooved On Writing. It’s one of my favorite writing books. I like the idea of making it a goal to read one craft book for the round. I’m totally stealing that goal! I tend to read a lot of fiction and ignore everything else, but I have a ton of half finished books on craft lying around and sitting on my kindle.

  7. I also enjoyed both On Writing and Story Engineering, and learned from both. Great review, and nice job on goals, ROWbro.

  8. Well done on your work so far! I didn’t check in on Wednesday either and it might well stay that way for me. To be honest, right now I don’t feel there’s enough going on for me to have fun and interesting things to report twice a week. Besides, I only got pulled over by the cops on Friday – that wouldn’t have made the Wednesday update either… Great review, by the way πŸ˜€

  9. maidrya says:

    Your review of On Writing was very thought-provoking. (I read it years ago, btw, and thought it one of the best, most useful books on writing I’ve ever read.) I’ve observed some of the same “camps” – the outliners, the pantsers, etc., and find that I agree with ALL of them – or, at least I find something of value in all of them. And, I think you’re right, that King or other intuitives come to some of the same places as do the planner/outliners, but by a different route.

    You seem to have your head on straight about your goals and keeping them reasonable and reachable.

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Barbara: Oh man I have I been there. At one point I was trying to make a physical document that incorporated all the advice from the 30-40 craft books I’d read. You know in an easy to use outline. Right. Not possible. The best method for fiction is the one that works for you. Most of the advice in the books is aimed to fix weak points or help past issues. Find what works for you and go with it is the best advice.

      Nicole: Personally, I’m a “plotser”, using a mixture of the two sides. Yes I plan primary story points, characters, the ending, etc., but “in scene” I’m mainly a pantser (still, originally) and let the characters play. Sometimes they run into trees but medics (revisions) are nearby πŸ™‚

      L.S.: Get both books, read a couple chapters from both and finish the one that speaks to you first. Then read the other one or something else *grins*

      Heather: I have to admit, like you, that until reading “On Writing” I’d never read a single word of his fiction, although I’ve seem many of the movies based on the books. I’m glad to “show you up” IF it motivates you to excel πŸ™‚

      Stacy: I agree, there is no “patented AAA method” of fiction writing. Read everything you can (find time to), keep what works naturally, let the rest go without a thought or regret. Always look to improve, to me, that is one of the joys of being a writer. There is always something new to learn and somewhere new to explore.

      Stephanie: I try to read one craft book every “quarter” of the year. I’ve yet to read one that I didn’t learn or find new techniques from. If you are looking for a cool resource list try this post by Kristen Lamb -> http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/kung-fu-writing-taking-on-the-year-of-the-tiger/

      Kerry: Enjoyed them both as well and definitely use techniques from both. Thanks, ROWbro!

      Mhairi: Wednesdays are an yoga exercise designed for a three armed man for me, meaning my ambitions are often met by the realities and after 18-20 hours I have to sleep and let some things pass by. Thanks for the compliment πŸ™‚

      Maidrya: I think the camps do correspond to peoples built in personalities which is why some people wouldn’t dream of pantsing something and others can’t imagine plotting. Fortunately, most of us fall somewhere in between. Thanks for the comment πŸ™‚

      Em: I will admit that I planned the craft book in, and did it first, just so I would have one item that was complete during the round. Building successes into our overall goals is a good way to stay motivated on the longer range one (or the ones that never really end, like the writing).

      Thanks for all the support. I’ll be sure to visit all of you (and any other ROWer) that leaves a comment. Peace, friends πŸ™‚

  10. Em says:

    It sounds like you have had a great week! Over 7,000 words is great and it must be amazing to be able to tick a goal off your list completely so early in the round, well done!

    Have a great week!

  11. 7K each week is a really huge goal to me. I’m impressed that you’ve exceeded this. Yay! And I’m REALLY impressed with your exercise success. That seems to be the hardest thing for everybody.

    I haven’t admitted this in public until now, but I hate reading non-fiction. So I don’t read craft books. But when I do decide to read one, it’s probably going to be On Writing. Because Stephen King knows his stuff. He proves this by his awesome writing. He’s kind of my hero. I don’t particularly want to read a craft book by someone I’ve never heard of simply because I don’t know why I would trust that person to know what they’re talking about. Does that make sense? If I haven’t read any fiction by the person writing the craft book, then how do I know they are correct in what they’re saying? I appreciate your review on King’s book because I’ve always wondered about it.

  12. Great review. I remember his line about keeping the door shut during the first draft as a huge ahh-ha moment. Really should re-read that one of these days, so many books…

    I hear you on the Wednesdays. It’s hard to fit everything in yet you’re doing amazingly. Sounds like you had a fantastic week. Wishing you all the best for the upcoming one.

  13. Great post Gene. Glad I caught it! I loved “On Writing” and it sits next to my laptop, just in case I need some inspiration πŸ™‚ I haven’t read “Story Engineering”. I’m a pantser, so maybe that’s why I enjoyed King’s book so much. I try to live by his formula: read A LOT and write everyday. Thanks for your review!

    Awesome progress this week!

  14. Lena Corazon says:

    Gene, this is a fantastic review of King’s work, and I’m really glad to see the comparison with Brooks’s approach, especially since his advice on story structure and plotting is what got me through NaNoWriMo. Based on what you’ve said, I do see the value for incorporating (if possible) both strands of thought. I think I’ve always written by intuition, but my work has lacked in the structure department, which is what I’m trying to learn now. I’ll definitely have to pick up “On Writing.”

    It sounds like you’re doing wonderfully well, and I have to echo the sentiment about Wednesdays. I dropped the mid-week check-in last round, and while I do miss it, it just wasn’t fitting into my schedule.

    Have a wonderful week! πŸ™‚

  15. Like Lauralynn, I’m impressed with your word count. In fact, my jaw dropped when I read it. That’s amazing, considering everything else you have going on in your life. I have Stephen King’s On Writing on my bookshelf, and when I need inspiration, I turn to it. Something about that book hits me right where it counts to buoy me up when I start slipping in my writing habits. I don’t think he intended it as inspirational, but that’s the effect it has for me. I’m looking forward to your review of Zelazny’s book next week.

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Lauralynn: I tend to read NF, including craft books, rapidly searching for keys and techniques I’m not already aware of. I wouldn’t say I read every word. However, Kings book reads more like a memoir and instructs at the same time. I did read every single word of this one. If you ever decide to read one craft book, this is the one I’d recommend.

      Raelyn: I love the door shut door open analogy too. Makes a lot of sense to me and I can see the advantage of it and am applying it from this point forward to see how it plays out.

      Claudia: The point, I believe, is to have a process that works for you. Beyond that the rest is just other peoples opinions, uninformed at that if they don’t know us personally. I always keep this thought in mind when reading books, posts or taking in information on writing in any format. Read a lot, write a lot…yeah now that I can do πŸ™‚

      Lena: You’ll love “On Writing”, highly recommend it, perhaps it will give you some peace and heck we all need that I think. For the most part, I probably will not be doing Wednesday updates, its a matter of time more than desire. Work, family and writing are the first priorities (not in that order by the way).

      Suzanne: Now that I’ve read “On Writing” I can see and agree with you on it being inspirational. If King can do it then we all should take hope. It is now on my primary bookshelf, the one right next to me within reach.

      Thanks for all the support. I appreciate it greatly. Hope you all have wonderful weeks πŸ˜€

  16. vickikeire says:

    I loved On Writing. Don’t you love crossing things off The List? It was great to read your take on it, and to see how much great progress you’re making towards your goal! Good luck with next week’s!

  17. Ali Dent says:

    I’m new to writing fiction. This review confirms a pattern I hear in my reading. There is marriage between heart and skill that is necessary for a good story. This review was so helpful to me. Best wishes this week.

  18. Marcia says:

    What a good feeling to cross stuff off your list! Amazing job on the writing–you’re my inspiration! And what a great treadmill challenge partner you’ve been. Can you believe we have little more than two more weeks left? I’m up to 20 walks now and they’re suddenly getting so much easier for me. Let me know if you want to continue the challenge after the end of the month. Congrats on your 18 walks! You can definitely make it!
    I enjoyed your review on King’s book. I’m finally convinced to get it for myself now. Have a great week coming up!

  19. Jenny Hansen says:

    I haven’t read Story Engineering yet, for the exact reasons you outlined. πŸ™‚ I adored “On Writing” and Natalie Goldberg’s “Wild Mind” and Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” but they’re much more touchy-feely books. Same thing with Julia Cameron. If you say I should put Story Engineering on my list, I will put it on. πŸ™‚

    p.s. I rock my sponsor duties mostly on Sunday too. I have a bit more time, though I didn’t today. But I can usually get about 5-10 people visited on Wednesdays if I do it before bed (like now).

  20. Tia Bach says:

    And the understanding quality of ROW80 is why many of us love it!

    Loved your review. I also devoured King’s On Writing. He didn’t spill secrets to writing the bestseller, because the secrets are within us (not to sound corny). I think I might have to reread it from time to time to reenergize my writing and commitment.

    Sounds like great progress. (I also failed on my Wednesday sponsor duties. I’m hoping the Wednesday 0’s will forgive me since I’m doing the Sunday ones now).

    Best of luck for a new week!

  21. I think the same thing about “On Writing”. The first part is more like a memoir and I was beginning to think, ok, where is the craft part? But it was all good. It was nice to see how his life was, how he started writing, how little things inspired him …
    Fantastic word count, Gene. I hope all weeks to come are like that πŸ˜‰

  22. Pingback: Monday Mentions: Angry Cupid, Writer-icity & Pet Schtuff « Amy Shojai's Blog

  23. I loved Stephen King’s _On Writing_ AND I have never read a word of his fiction writing. I loved the memoir section as well, to get to know him as a writer. Intriguing to read your review.

    I know what you mean about tight schedules. Sometimes mine is ridiculous.

    And wow, what a job on your goals this week. I haven’t added it to my goals yet, but I exercised 340 minutes last week. I am very proud of that fact, as I was lucky to get in 60 minutes in 2011.

    Bravo, Gene. As always it is a pleasure to read your updates.

  24. Good job with the short word count and development. Hope the tight work schedule loosens up a bit. Thanks for making time for encouraging others, like me! πŸ™‚

  25. KM Huber says:

    On Writing remains my top tool, an oversoul of sorts. Yet, I was so struck by Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering that I actually outlined my notes–my plot thickened. Really enjoyed your post.

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