On Writing

Stephen King is best known for his horror novels, but my favorite King book is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.   It is a “must read” for all writers as it details how to write well, how King writes, and his career path.  If you aren’t a writer, you can read it as a memoir rather than a reference book.   

On Writing has many jewels, but most interesting to me was when he took the old writer’s advice to “write what you know,” and expanded that to say that “what you know is really what you love”–your interests, hobbies, and passions, in addition to your areas of expertise. 

This was truly a revelation to me, because I don’t want to write about what I know from my day-to-day existence–I mean, who wants to read about stay-at-home suburban moms, food allergies, naughty puppies, and playdates?  Yet the publishing community seems to get uncomfortable with people who don’t have a platform in their novel subject matter–even in fiction. 

I was able to attend a Writer’s Conference in NY City last year, where bestselling author, Jodi Piccoult, was the keynote speaker.  She said that she had the same problem as a new writer.  She would call her mother and beg for skeletons in the family closet–incest, adultery, anything–but since she lived a really steady life in suburban New England, she just had to go out and become an expert in subject matters that interested her.  (More from this writer here: http://www.jodipicoult.com/)

No, I still haven’t made it to Nevis (the setting for my first novel,) but I have made it to Key West a number of times.  And this is relevant because it is the setting for the novel I’m currently working on.  

But more on that tomorrow.  Suburban mom duties are calling…loudly.

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2 thoughts on “On Writing

  1. Dave says:

    Erika, King makes a great distinction. Writing is such hard work that if you don’t love the subject matter — and the process of writing — it will never happen. And whether the story takes place in the 18th Century or the present day, in Asia or America, it can have the same themes and trigger the same emotions. I’ll have to get that book.

  2. Kirsten says:

    Picoult really envelops her readers. I enjoy her ability to be honest with her readers – she doesn’t hide anything about the mixed emotions her characters feel.

    Enjoying your blog!

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