Thursday, September 2, 2010

What I've Learned - On Writing (2)

After reading Mockingjay this weekend and realizing I'll never be as good as Suzanne Collins, I thought it would be a good time to go over something Stephen King mentions in his book, On Writing, to encourage everyone to keep on going.

Good writing...teaches the learning writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creation of believable characters and truth-telling. A [good novel] may fill a writer with despair and...jealousy...but such feelings can serve as a spur, goading the writer to work harder.

Mr. King is right on all points here. After I finish reading a good book, be it Mockingjay or The Stand or Harry Potter, I feel like my life as a writer is over. There is no possible way I could ever hope to write as well as JK Rowling or Stephen King. I stay in this period of mourning for awhile, but then something sparks and I snap out of it. All of a sudden, the writing in the book inspires me to be my best.

I think reading a lot of books, especially good books, helps me overcome some of the roadblocks I encounter when I'm writing. If I can't think of how to express something, I start to think of how other books broached the topic. Of course, it usually doesn't match up with exactly what I'm trying to express, but it gives me somewhere to jump off from.

For example, when I first started writing my current WIP, I wasn't sure how to write a good kissing scene. I thought back to some books that had some I really liked and re-read them. I picked out the points that I thought made them great, and then I tried to capture that in my own story. Re-reading the scenes also helped me determine how much of my scene should focus on action and how much on feeling. That was the one thing that all the scenes had in common - more focus on emotion. If I didn't pick up those books, I never would have made the connection. My kissing scene would have been all tongues and hands and throbbing members (okay....maybe I had the sense not to go that far.)

So the moral of the story is, don't be afraid to read good books in your genre. They may just spark something inside you that you didn't know existed!


  1. The majority of my inspiration comes from Stephen. I study his books as I read them to see how he puts everything together and reflect that in my own writing.

  2. Great post. I agree with you and I'm the same way. After reading a really good book, I too think, "I'll never write that well...I'll never...I'll never..." But after all the negative thinking (which sometimes is only a day, sometimes two weeks), I get motivated and more determined. I also will reread scenes that I love to see what the author did that made me love the scene so much to try and capture that same feeling in my own writing.