Yes, Mr. King is one author who knows his stuff. If you haven’t read “On Writing” yet, and you have any plans to write at all, then by all means, do get it. He offers valuable insights into the nitty gritty of writing that go beyond your usual “anyone can do this if they just learn ___ & ___.”
The sad fact is that not everyone can do the writing thing. Mr. King is pretty clear on that, but it’s not only because some people aren’t talented at writing. There are people who can write very well, but they won’t make a career out of it for any number of reasons. Perhaps they just don’t enjoy it. Maybe the rest of their lives are too busy to focus on writing. Others find it too hard at some point in the process and give up.
But, I’m convinced that those who are serious about writing, no matter what their goals or genres, all have one thing in common.
They know the rules, and they know how to break them.
Like Stephen King, I agree that “good writing consists of mastering the fundamentals (vocabulary, grammar, the elements of style)” (On Writing, p 142). If you want to write, especially for purposes of publication, know your stuff. I’m talking basic, bare bones grammar first and foremost. Expand that knowledge to style and beyond that to fantastic storytelling, and you’ll find yourself at least a competent, if not good, writer.
And it’s these good writers who go on to learn how they can break the rules without readers so much as batting an eye.
Case in point: The first Heather Graham novel I read, “The Vision”, was liberally showered with adverbs and passive voice (was / had), but it was still a darn good story. Not a blockbuster hit, mind you, but good enough to keep me turning the pages. I only noticed these rule breakers because of my wonderful critique partners. I love them, mind you, but some could masquerade as adverb and passive voice exterminators at night.
You see, I’m certain after having written dozens of books, that Heather Graham knows the rules just like Stephen King knows the rules. But, like him and other good / great writers, she’s developed her storytelling ability to the point that she can break the rules and get away with it.
Not everyone can do this, especially in the beginning. If you attempt to break the writing rules too early, you risk looking like a drunken wino who smells of adverb dependence and stale clichés. When you reach the point where your storytelling ability can benefit from an exceptionally placed adverb or comfortable cliché, then you’re more like a sexy redhead in a sequined dress sipping expensive red wine at an upscale bar.
Writing in spite of rules takes confidence, people. But, it doesn’t arrive overnight by FedEx. Like a fine wine, it must improve with age and careful tending. Eventually, if you’re dedicated
Mysti Parker (pseudonym) is a full time wife, mother of three, and a writer. Her first novel, A Ranger's Tale was published in January, 2011 by Melange Books, and the second in the fantasy romance series, Serenya's Song, was published in April 2012. The highly anticipated third book, Hearts in Exile, has already received some great reviews. The Tallenmere series has been likened to Terry Goodkind's 'Sword of Truth' series, but is probably closer to a spicy cross between Tolkien and Mercedes Lackey.
Mysti's other writings have appeared in the anthologies Hearts of Tomorrow, Christmas Lites, and Christmas Lites II. Her flash fiction has appeared on the online magazine EveryDayFiction. She has also served as a class mentor in Writers Village University's six week free course, F2K.
Mysti reviews books for SQ Magazine, an online specfic publication, and is the proud owner of Unwritten, a blog voted #3 for eCollegeFinder's Top Writing Blogs award. She resides in Buckner, KY with her husband and three children.
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A Ranger's Tale, Tallenmere #1
Serenya's Song, Tallenmere #2
Hearts in Exile, Tallenmere #3 (Coming May 26!)