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On Writing changed my career.

Discussion in 'On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft' started by Bill Ricardi, Oct 11, 2017.

  1. Bill Ricardi

    Bill Ricardi Member

    I heard that there might be the slimmest of chances that Mr. King might read this. Well, I want him to know that he made me a success, so here I am.

    For the next hour, I'm going to keep my ass planted right here and specifically detail how 'On Writing' changed my career, and by proxy, my life. It's 22:30 Belfast time, and the weather is, as always, crap.

    "Jane transmits."

    I've been writing since I was a lad. Hell, I even got paid for it. I wrote pieces for magazines back in the 90's, websites in 2000's. Sports, games, gambling, it was all on the table. But I wasn't a writer, I was a jobber: 3 to 4 cents a word, make it look pretty, wham bam thank you man.

    So when my high tech startup dreams exploded and I went from CEO to absolutely nothing, I thought, 'Maybe I should go back to writing.' But I didn't want to do the jobber thing anymore. I wanted to write my novel. I was hurting, and I felt that hurt every day. It was the red badge of failure. Needless to say, my confidence was in the toilet.

    Enter 'On Writing'.

    A friend of mine said that Stephen King wrote this book about writing books, and I should start there. I have to admit, I breezed through the personal history stuff the first time through. I wanted the magic formula. The last thing I was in the mood for was getting touchy and feely with the guy who wrote Misery.

    But the skimming stopped. So did the search for the magic formula.

    Take any noun, put it with any verb, and you have a sentence...

    Well of course, but that wasn't the point was it? It was talking about sentences as tent poles. It was talking about delivering your idea with efficiency, with effect.

    I was hooked until Mr. King went on to say:

    The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said.

    And of course I rebelled. He even admitted that he doesn't always do it. The nerve of this guy! Who the hell does he think he is? Oh right, he's the multimillionaire with more hits than Motown. Still, I'm going to prove him wrong.

    But here's what really happened: I was on the sidelines. Mr. King, with a few simple words, made me an active combatant. It didn't matter if I agreed or disagreed with that one tiny bit of advice. I had an opinion. I took a side. And I kept reading.

    He wrote The End, set the manuscript aside, and began work on the next book.

    Process. Process is without a doubt why I had failed as a 'real' writer in the past. Mr. King is the... damn I'm going to say it... he's the king of process. 2000 words a day. Like gods damned clockwork.

    Everything in this chapter taught me something that I needed to know. About writing and about myself. I was going to commit to 2000 words a day. I was going to commit to three novels averaging over 100K words in my first year.

    But perhaps more importantly, I created my writing space. Yeah it was on an old mattress in front of a desktop computer, but no TV. No phone unless something was on fire. 8 hour day minimum. Whenever I started to deviate, I asked myself, 'If Stephen King was my boss, would he kick my ass for this?' Sometimes the answer was yes, but surprisingly sometimes the answer was: 'Is it working for you?' Mr. King's lessons in workspace and work habits were, without a single doubt in my mind, the most important elements leading up to my transformation.

    I cannot stress this enough: Build your writing space. Don't let anyone violate it. Maybe your cat, they have their own sets of rules.

    “What you reckon?” the boy asked.

    I knew that not everyone talked like me. And yet every character ended up being that New England smartass. Chtvarsketh the alien bug from Zoblulek 9 would bust out with, "Hey can't you see I'm _walkin'_ here?!" I was hopeless. I could craft plot like Lovecraft, I could see action sequences in my head like the Wachowski brothers, but put two people in a room and things got hopeless real fast.

    'On Writing' talks about being honest. Being honest with yourself, being honest about what is going on inside the mind of a character, and most importantly, being honest about what comes out of their mouths. So I started to pretend I was 9 years old again, playing D&D in the cellar with my friends. Every scene with dialogue became 100 percent role played. There were character sheets, there were notes on state of mind, and you damn well better believe that the honesty meter got turned up to high.

    That, simply put, fixed me. I stopped worrying about what the reader wanted to read, and I started to worry about what my characters were trying to say. There were no more New England smartasses. There were characters with motivations, talking with purpose. I jump through a hell of a lot more hoops than Mr. King does to get there, but thanks to him I got there.

    We’re nearly finished.

    I have about ten minutes of my hour left, so I thought I would talk about the end of the advice section. 'On Writing' closes shop fairly neatly. But one of the things addressed by Mr. King is the following:

    Do you do it for the money, honey? The answer is no. Don’t now and never did.

    And that's great for him, but I don't think the lesson there is 'you can't do it for the money or else you'll fail'. I think the real lesson there is being able to answer that question honestly. If you do it for the money, if you do it full time, I don't think that inherently poisons your work. I mean you're pumping out 2000 words a day whether you're doing it for love or for money, right? The process doesn't change, and neither should your writing.

    But other things change. Can you do it full time? Can you do it on the weekends? Are you starving if you don't sell? Can you get a job that lets you do the other important component of writing (reading the work of others)?

    I'm still not using 'he said' and 'she said' all the time Mr. King. But I do sometimes... just for you.

    It's 23:30 in Belfast. The weather is still crap.

    Thanks from a grateful fan,

    Bill Ricardi
  2. kingricefan

    kingricefan All-being, keeper of Space, Time & Dimension.

    Welcome! Interesting post. Steve gets 10% of your royalties.....;;D
    Neesy, GNTLGNT, mal and 3 others like this.
  3. Bill Ricardi

    Bill Ricardi Member

    And what do I do with the other 4 percent? -thinking-
    Neesy and kingricefan like this.
  4. king family fan

    king family fan Prolific member

  5. Spideyman

    Spideyman Uber Member

    Hi and welcome.
  6. mal

    mal Well-Known Member

    Howdy Bill and Welcome! Nice post. It was inspiring. All the best, mal.

    GNTLGNT The idiot is IN

    ...love your Ricardo Rum Bill!....
  8. Tery

    Tery Dreaming in Middletown Moderator

    Welcome to the MB :)
  9. Bill Ricardi

    Bill Ricardi Member

    Thanks for the warm welcome everyone. I'm going to be watching this forum because I think 'On Writing' is genuinely the best book out there on this subject. With the holidays coming up, it's a great gift for any aspiring writers on your list.
    Spideyman, FlakeNoir, Neesy and 3 others like this.
  10. Neesy

    Neesy #1 fan (Annie Wilkes cousin) 1st cousin Mom's side

    I make stuff up.jpg

    Great post! Welcome to the SKMB

    I enjoyed reading "On Writing" just as a stand alone book (I'm not an aspiring writer) - the personal parts about his life and the accident were especially interesting.
  11. Bill Ricardi

    Bill Ricardi Member

    The first time around, as I admitted, I skipped them. :) But you're absolutely right, delving into the accident and family relationships was well worth it. I'm glad that I went cover to cover on the second and third reads.
  12. FlakeNoir

    FlakeNoir Original Kiwi© SKMB® Moderator

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Welcome to the message board. :smile:
    Bill Ricardi, Neesy, GNTLGNT and 3 others like this.
  13. Zone D Dad

    Zone D Dad Well-Known Member

    Welcome - I enjoyed your post. I'm back into On Writing as well. I recently pulled out my 50k word unfinished novel that's been shelved for well over a year. It's not great, but reading it has been an eye-opener. I think there's some good things in it and I'm determined to finally finish the damn thing (and then re-write it of course, lol). That led me back to Mr. King's book, which is an inspiring piece of work and full of wonderful insight and information.

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