Stephen King’s On Writing is excellent. I’ve been dabbling in bits of writing for years and never getting very far and it’s only recently I’ve decided it’s time to take it seriously. As such, I’ve been trying to get something done every day, have joined writing websites and have been thinking a lot about what I want to say.
It’s really hard! The most obvious thing I’ve found is that my writing is quite stiff and formal. You get out of the habit if you’re not doing some kind of creative writing every day and it’s trained out of you – to have a strong personality and opinions when you start your GCSEs. No opinions or statements unless they can be backed up with facts and no humour. You have exams to pass! It was worse at university though there was at least emphasis on grammar and crafting what you were trying to say.
So I’m having to learn how to write freely again – dialogue is the hardest so far. And yet in emails, letters and other informal documents I can write masses very easily in my own voice. Somehow this ability deserts me when I start to sit down to write a story.
Which brings me back to Stephen King. Frustrated by not quite knowing what to do it was his book I turned to. And thank goodness! I’ve never read his novels as they’re not quite my thing. His style while talking about his craft is that of the approachable mentor (he was a teacher for a while) and the book is full of humour and personal stories. What’s been really good for me, having had a couple of creative writing handbooks kicking about the house for a bit, is realising, having read what he says, what I’ve done wrong on a passage and how to make it better. My notebooks have suddenly filled up quicker than they have before as passages occur to me while walking, at work or, last night, while untangling a ball of wool.
It feels weird at my age feeling very much like a schoolgirl asking for help with things like this – having been so involved with writing, books and reading for years I feel like I ought to know this stuff. I see so many writers on the scene now who are my age or younger that it makes me think I ought to be better at this. But the great thing about writing is that people come to it at any age from any background.
So I’m a bit late to the party. But I’m here now, my ears are open and I’m going to have fun.