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November 9, 2009

The horror... the horror

Kate Hart
I haven't read Stephen King's new book, which prompted one journalist to claim that King is the most underrated literary novelist of our time, but I did read King's On Writing this weekend. It was every bit as good as my writer friends had claimed, which was a relief, because I spent a good chunk of my teenage years reading and re-reading The Stand, and might have been crushed by a less-than-stellar book of advice.

But I wasn't, and I copied a ton of quotations from it for future inspiration, seeing as it was a library book and I didn't think they'd appreciate outright theft of the book.

The first thing I took away from this book: Spouses *can* be good beta readers. Should they be your only extra pair of eyes? Definitely not. But so much of the conventional advice says that spouses and friends can't be objective. Judging from the amount of scribbling my husband did on my 2nd draft, I'd beg to differ-- and so would Stephen King, whose wife is his "Constant Reader."
"Whenever I see a first novel dedicated to a wife (or husband), I think, There's someone who knows. Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference." (p. 74)
Should I get published some day, I doubt anyone would be surprised to see my husband's name front and center on the dedication page.

*pauses for audience to say "Awwww!"*

Ahem. So I won't post every quote I wrote down, but here are a few more: Two good descriptions of what has always grabbed me about King's writing:
"If you want to be a successful writer, you must be able to describe it [a scene or object], and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle in recognition."
"You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you."
And on writing groups, which King suggests you take with a grain of salt... or grit, if you will:
"It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster's shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters."


  1. Yep, I find S.King's ON WRITING to be a great resource for writers, too.
    --(aka "stormie")

  2. I'm not a big fan of writing advice books. I find they are a tool to procrastinate sitting my butt in a chair and getting to the actual words. But now I may have to go out and get this one. I keep hearing good things about it!

  3. That book prompted me to finish the first draft of Bad Girls. And I love, love, love the pearl-making bite. So funny.

  4. I went to pick up Self-Editing for Fiction Writers earlier today at B&N, but they didn't have it in stock. Should have gotten this one instead~! Love the quotes.

  5. But how do you make your spouse objective? I had my fiance beta read Witch Tourniquet, but he did not find much wrong with it. Transferring it over to other beta readers, however, showed there was plenty that needed working on. I know he's not just being nice either. He often criticizes my stories (sometimes really stupid reasons), but he criticizes, nonetheless. Also, Stephen King's wife IS an author, so that helps.

  6. Amber, I think it's luck of the draw. My husband and I edited each other's papers in college (and terrible poetry in high school...), and even though he's not a writer these days, I knew he was capable.

    I guess I was trying to say that being a spouse doesn't necessarily preclude objectivity, not that being a spouse automatically makes one a good beta candidate.


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