After being nudged by the universe several times lately, I finally listened and picked up a copy of Stephen (aka Stevie) King's "On Writing" last night. Holy shit, Sherlock! Is this a book, or what? Only halfway through, I've discovered I'm doing (practically) everything wrong. Well, not really, but kinda sorta. Here's what I've gleamed so far:
1) Adverbs = bad, very bad. Eerily, terribly, creepily, forcefully, horrifically bad!
2) He guffawed. She gasped. He agreed. She snipped. All bad, very bad. He said/she said should do the trick, providing you've worked your writing magic thereby insinuating the "guffawed, gasped, agreed, and snipped." And even worse? She gasped wearily. He agreed righteously...
3) Write the first draft for yourself with the door closed. Rewrite for others with the door open. Who knew Stevie was so feng shui? (And, who knew the teachers in my life, both male and female, would be named Stevie?)
4) Use the vocabulary you know. Don't try to be flashy or intellectual. Example:
"They hugged." vs "They were locked in a deep embrace." (Unless you write romance!)
5) Use active verbs not passive! Here's a few examples:
Passive: "The party will begin at six o'clock."
Active: "The party's at six."
Passive: "The sofa was moved into the family room."
Active: "We moved the sofa into the family room."
Passive: "I had inquired into the location of the parade."
Active: "Where's the parade?" I said.
Interesting tidbits about Stevie's past:
One day when Stevie was six and his brother, Dave was eight, they were a half-mile from home playing in an old junkyard. Stevie needed to "use the facilities" but, of course, this was an old junkyard, not the Marriott. "Use leaves to wipe yourself, just like real cowboys and Indians!" said Dave. Stevie looked around, gathered a pile of shiny leaves, and did it like a man. What were those shiny leaves? Poison Ivy. Ouch.
He started submitting his writing at the age of 14. By 16, he'd collected an impressive pile of rejection slips that he nailed to his bedroom wall.
When he was a sophomore in high school he was 6'2" tall! Now he's 8'5". (Kidding!!)
During his final semester of college, he sold his third story for $200 - more than twice the combined revenue of his first two ($65).
In the early '70s, he got an advance of $2500 for "Carrie." Although that was a lot of money to him and his wife, Tabitha, it was a low advance even then. (He had no agent to negotiate for him, btw.) On Mother's Day, 1973 he found out the paperback rights had been sold for $400,000, half of which would go directly to him. The rest, as they say, is history.
I'll write another post in the next couple of days outlining what else I've learned from this ridiculously inspiring book. My advice, if you're not too flashy or intellectual, is to run out and get yourself a copy!
(HINT: At my Borders the book was located in "Horror" with all of Stephen King's books, not in the "Writing" section where I spent five-ten precious minutes searching to no avail.)