Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.

In the past few weeks, I’ve read four books on writing:

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott
No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days, by Chris Baty
Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style, by Arthur Plotnik
On Writing, by Stephen King

Stephen King’s On Writing is the best of the bunch. It’s one of the few that don’t make you feel terrible about yourself (No Plot, No Problem is another). Most books on writing are written by people who can write well, but have managed not to sell many books. There’s nothing wrong with this –- selling books shouldn’t be your motivation, I get that – it’s just that it spawns this you-have-to-suffer-like-I-did attitude. Through it all, there’s a dour, pedantic voice, saying: Everything you’ve ever written sucks, and if you don’t know it yet, I will help you know it. You shouldn’t worry about getting published, because it won’t happen. But if you still want to write anyway, here’s how I do it.

King’s On Writing is pithy and unpretentious. And his message is remarkably simple: "Read four hours a day and write four hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can't expect to become a good writer."

For the next year at least, I have found the time.

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