Usually when a Stephen King book comes out, I clear a day or two and just lose myself in it. This is not true of his manual-cum-memoir On Writing, which has languished on a shelf (on my Stephen King bookcase) for many a long year. I bought it in order to be a completist, to have the set (Pokemon can get stuffed). But why the reluctance to open the book and start reading?
Part of me didn’t want to know. I’ve read How To Write manuals before and they have given me nothing useful. I didn’t want to know how Mr King approaches his work and what methods he subscribes; I would rather just buy the finished novels and enjoy them without seeing behind the scenes.
But then last week, I picked it up and I dipped into it. The first section is indeed an autobiography of his early years, in terms of his writing career, and it’s a very pleasant, informal read. The second section about the writing process itself was a revelation. Or rather an anti-revelation, if that’s the term. I discovered that Mr King’s approach to writing is the same as mine. He advocates a daily discipline with an allotted word target (2,000 a day) and his approach to plot, theme, and symbolism is also the same as mine!
I felt vindicated. One of my favourite writers works in the same way as me and I didn’t have to change my approach in order to emulate him! It felt like an affirmation; I am on the right track.
The third and final section of the book recounts the serious accident he was in, a close encounter with a van. I don’t want to follow in those particular footsteps, thank you, but I am heartened to think that the process I worked out and adopted for myself is the right one.
Mr King does not need to worry that I’m going to knock him off the bestsellers list. Not this week, at least. I’m still bashing out my horror novel. When it’s done, he’d better watch his back. And I’d better look up the definition of hubris.