A little while ago, Chris Hill, who kindly did an interview here on the barge, did a post about 'How to Write' books. I found it interesting as it's not something I've ever thought much about until recently. That is, I never used to read 'how to write' articles, books, blog posts or anything of that nature. I just wrote. Simple.
But since I've been following a number of writers on Twitter and seeing links to really hundreds of such websites and articles, I've started wondering how much they might help me. I read a few blogs about editing and found them useful, and then I bought Stephen King's book, On Writing. After enjoying the autobiographical part, I waded through the advice - he's a bit dogmatic about some things, and I even felt annoyed about some of his remarks about what makes 'good' writers or 'bad' writers. Since I'm not a fan of his fiction, it wasn't difficult to react with thoughts like "And who are you to say what is good and bad," convinced as I was - and to a large extent still am - that what we think and judge to be good is mostly a matter of taste and choice. Cheeky of me, huh? For sure, I can recognise some writers as great, but I might dislike their subject matter and style. I have once or twice abandoned award winning novels half way through as heaps of self-indulgent twaddle. I won't list those that have inspired this reaction because others might think they are wonderful. And that's the point. It's about what inspires us, and as a writer, I try and write the type of books I enjoy reading. In the end, whatever we think of someone's skill as a wordsmith, it doesn't always mean we will like, respect or even want to read what they write. Apart from that, certain styles and topics come into fashion and then go again.
So what did I learn from Stephen King's book? Well one thing was a consciousness about adverbs that I never had before. He hates them and makes quite an issue of it. I'm still grappling with this one as I just love my adverbs. They give so much colour and humour, and I hate to see them go, but yes, I have to admit I use too many, so the delete key has been busy of late. That's a minor detail, though. The other, more important tips were firstly, when you finish a first edit, leave it alone yourself but print it out and send it to some trusted readers. Ask them to give you honest, constructive feedback. The second is to start doing something else so that you can go back and read your book afresh.
I have now followed both these pieces of advice. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I've recently finished an intense edit, and I am now waiting for the printed copies to send out to a few test readers. The other tip is that I've started a new writing project. This is not fiction. It is the account of how I convert the Vereeniging (the barge in the header picture of my blog) into my home. It will, I hope, be humorous as much of the process was very amusing and it follows on from Watery Ways, picking up just before I left off at the end of that tale. I am already enjoying the change and I'm finding it much easier to write than fiction, so it's very refreshing for me.
I hope it will move quite fast as I'd like to have the first draft done by the end of the summer. Ambitious? Maybe, but it's good to be busy with something new. And for that, despite my occasional annoyance with his pedantry, I can thank Mr King.
By the way, the man is amazing. He survived the most horrible crippling injuries when he was hit by a reckless driver, and if his book is to be believed, it is his passion for writing that helped him recover after months of hospitalisation, several operations and deep depression. It is a very inspiring book in many respects, and I do recommend it fully (see another adverb!).