“Purge this quisling thought! Don’t be a muggle!” Quisling is a word I learned from King’s book. For anyone who may not know, Vidkum Quisling helped the Nazis overthrow Norway in World War II and had himself installed as Minister-President. His name now has the meaning of traitor. Muggle came into existence through J.K. Rowling’s writing and means without magic. These two short, declarative sentences are the essence of King’s message.
Don’t be a traitor to the rules of excellent writing, and believe in the magic of imagination.
The book is nicely organized into three parts. There is his writing memoir, a section on basic writing methodology with the business of publishing, and a last section of returning to writing when life gets in the way with a traumatic event. Don’t expect a free pass for a sensitive spirit, but then you also won’t be bull-whipped by a self-satisfied overlord. The man just says what he means and means what he says–stay in his classroom and take notes to use for a career, or drop the illusion of being a good writer and go do something where you’re actually good.
Read. Write. Read. Write. He is baffled by the writer who claims not to have time to read widely, so he offers his help in identifying moments of off-time that can be used. There are the moments of waiting for others, during stalled traffic, while dining alone, and on it goes. At the back is his reading list of classic to new fiction.
What I would have liked a few pages on is how he reads critically or records the writing of others. What does he do? Memorize photographically, make notations in the book, keep a notebook, or periodically jot a line in an open computer file? What about the writing? How does he look at that as a reader? I’m believing the hints are in the how to write section of the book, but is there more?
King’s method of writing is covered. A situation will hook his imagination and he will dive into the scene with no particular place to go. He writes daily until he has a first draft, which seems to seldom be longer than two months. Only then does he seriously look for the metaphor and meaning. His treasured first reader, his wife Tabitha, adds to the impression and purpose. Through a time away period, revisions, careful thought, and a sure writing hand, he dresses up and refines the piece until he’s pleased.
Yes, there is much to be learned from this writing book about inspiration and what has been of practical use. Oh, and Mr. King, what about the language?