Ignoring Advice from Stephen King

File:Onwriting.jpgOn Writing by Stephen King isn’t really a book of advice for writers, its about one man’s journey to becoming a writer. The advice is there between the anecdotes and the difficulties he’s encountered along the way. If there is one thing he believes is the best way to write a book it’s to get the story out from beginning to end without plotting in advance because you just don’t know where the story is going to take you.

That’s true, I have written scenes where my characters have taken over, said or done something I wasn’t expecting and taken the story in an unexpected direction which meant having to change the plan, often substantially. In the story I’m currently writing Cora’s tutor tells her something I expected to keep secret from her for a few more chapters. I couldn’t believe he’d done that. It changed everything and the twenty thousand word synopsis I’d written suddenly became obsolete.

I had two choices. I could rewrite the scene the way I’d originally planned or I could stick with the new version and see what happened, adapting the plan I thought I would be following as I went along. Since I liked the new version, and I think these spontaneous changes happen for a reason, I decided to stick with it.

Like Mr King, a lot of my ideas begin with a ‘what if’ moment, but I have to transfer that initial flash of light bulb inspiration into an outline and from there I compile a chapter list, breaking the story up into pieces, scene by scene, so I have something to follow. Then I can write the scenes that have already formed in my head. I rarely write the story in order and only work from chapter to chapter if no other scenes present themselves.

I often edit as I go too. A big no no if you’re trying to get the story out from start to finish. But when I step away from the keyboard at the end of a writing session the scene bubbles away in my subconscious, throwing up words, descriptions and dialogue that weren’t there during a first frantic typing. Better to go back and put them in now before they fade from memory as quickly as they emerged.

If I had the luxury of being able to sit and write and write for hours on end, instead of grabbing the odd fifteen minutes or so before having to leave the house or fit it in to the breaks between lectures, would I follow Stephen King’s advice? Probably not.

I like having my map, but even the map gets redrawn when the story starts to write itself and escapes the boundaries into new territory. It’s a guide not a rule book. If I’d written Blackfeather from start to finish when I first had the idea it would have been a stand-alone story with a soppy happy ending and, thankfully, that didn’t happen. Of course, editing might have changed that. In the end it’s not how you get the story down that’s important, only that you do.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

 

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Why Writer’s Block is a Myth

Everybody’s heard of “writer’s block” even if you’re not a writer yourself. It’s been used by writers for years to explain why their last book took x amount of years to write instead of several months and it’s the usual reason behind every late manuscript, article, blog post etc etc. But, some writers will also tell you that it’s a myth. That writer’s block doesn’t really exist and that: “There are no blocked writers only lazy writers.”

They’ll tell you that -“writers write” and that even if you’re only getting down nonsense on a page, or writing about your day and how awful it’s been, that’s the only way you can keep calling yourself a writer.

Well, I’d have to disagree.

I spend probably 65 – 70% of my time staring off into the middle distance visualising scenes I’m going to write, might write or may never bother to write, in an attempt to really see my story as it happens. I believe Stephen King advises writers to do this so that they can write a scene with credibility. You have to see it first before you write it. But whilst I’m doing that I’m not actually writing. Only when I can see that scene as plain as if it happened right in front of my eyes do I put pen to paper or fingers on keys.

I know at least one other person who writes like this (a certain comic book writer) who said that most of his life has been spent staring at walls.

I see absolutely no point in churning out garbage for the sake of calling it writing when you could be dreaming up the plot of your next bestseller or setting the scene for the meeting of your star-crossed protagonists. And sometimes, in between all this there will be days when you can’t think of the words your hero wants to say, or see how the light falls on the brutally murdered corpse of your latest victim. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a writer.

Writer’s block isn’t a myth it’s your brain screaming “Hey I need a rest, OK?” So give yourself a break. You’re still a writer, not a lazy writer. Ideas and inspiration can’t be forced they come when they’re ready.

Writers write, but in between they think and they dream.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter