Posts Tagged ‘stephen King’

Out on a Limb

NaNoWriMo starts in just a few days.

I’ve tried writing on and off over the years; correction, I’ve tried writing down story ideas. I spend time brainstorming, creating character backgrounds, etc. I’ve always had this idea in my head that you have to know exactly where you’re going and how the story is going to end before you start writing. I’ve come up with some passable ideas, I think, but creating the story arc and the ending has always eluded me. So the ideas remain just little scraps of paper.

I just finished reading On Writing, by Stephen King. I picked it up pretty much on a whim at a used bookstore more than six months ago. And I’ve been hesitating to pick it up for some time — not sure why. I think it’s because reading about writing feels like cheating somehow; if you want to write, just write!

The “aha” moment for me from King’s book is the idea that you don’t have to have your story figured out before you start writing. All you need is the “What if?” question: What if vampires invaded a small New England town? The result is Salem’s Lot.

Now, it scares me to death to think about this approach. How can I write if I don’t know where I’m going? The analogy King uses is that your story is like a buried artifact. As you excavate, your story unfolds. He actually argues that there’s more creativity in writing this way than less. You may not know what’s going to happen, but that’s where the fun is for the writer.

I’m willing to give it a try. After all, this is advice coming from one of the world’s greatest modern storytellers. It’s a formula that has clearly worked for him. My method hasn’t exactly been working, so it’s time for something different. I have a story idea, a main character and a setting. The only thing left to do is start writing on November 1.


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