Monday, June 22, 2009

Want to be a better writer? Me too! Let's do this

This week I had a look at the Sydney Writers' Centre ( blog and in mentioning some books for writers it named Stephen King's On Writing as a classic of the genre.

It sure is, and with good reason.

If you haven't already read it, go and buy or borrow it, and get motivated.

The first half of the book, about his life, is interesting enough. But the second is what I found really exciting when I first came across it years ago, and reassuring every time I go back to it.

He says that writing talent alone is not enough; that at least four to six hours a day of reading and writing is necessary (it's what he does); and that with some basic learnable skills and a work regime, a competent writer can become a really good writer. And a good writer can always become a better writer.

That's 28 hours a week, including a lot of time reading. That's reading good, bad or blah writing, because you learn something from each kind. He put in hours like that while he was married and working full time in a labouring job before he got famous with Carrie.

He reads 70 to 80 books, mostly fiction, a year. That's more than a book every week.

I probably used to read that much too, once. I'm not sure that I can put in those hours these days, with three young children, a house to run and a marriage to keep healthy, but I get close sometimes.

And you can too, especially if you count in the hours you might already spend in a week on reading and writing for work and/or pleasure.

For me it means being organised, and resisting the temptation to vege out in front of the TV when I've finished the housework and the kids are in bed, but I can do it.

To help you get in the extra reading King suggests turning off the TV (the glass teat he calls it), listening to audio books in the car while driving, reading while on the treadmill, and reading while on the toilet!

So with King's permission I'm going to read more and not feel guilty about it, because it's work.

Non-fiction is my thing, and last week I read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

Next I might try to get my hands on one of the other books recommended in the Writers' Centre blog:

The Little Red Writing Book by Mark Tredinnick;
Writing From Start to Finish by Kate Grenville; or
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg.

What are you reading? Got anything great to recommend, either fiction or non-fiction?

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  1. Hi Marilyn,
    I also read Stephen King's book "on writing" and came away thinking how wonderful to have married a partner who was so supportive of his writing ambitions.

    Keep on writing!

  2. I agree, and I'm fortunate to have married such a person as well. But I can still find reasons or excuses (such a fine line between them sometimes) to not do the work!


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