Challenge day 21

Today’s read pages 237-349, sections 15 & 16 of chapter On Writing.

One should have a literary agent before going to publish. Be wary of agents who will read for a fee.

Writing has more to do with instinct than with higher thought.

Does Mr. King do it for the money? He says although he has made plenty he never set a single word on paper with the thought of being paid for it. He has written because it fulfilled him. As with most anything in life, he says if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever. Writing is not life, but it can be a way back to life.

With this post I pause. I have arrived at the final postscript of the book. I am about to embark on a journey to take my mother back to my hometown to visit my brother and several of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. My attention will be on her and I have another book to read about spirituality without religion that may get a mention on this her blog thingy, or maybe not. I will return to the postscript of Stephen King’s On Writing upon my return to California at which time I will complete my blog posts of it and my Personal Challenge.


Challenge day 20

Todays read pages 231-237, section 14 of Chapter On Writing

Writing classes? One doesn’t really have to have them (nor does one need this or any other writing book). They may not hurt, but aren’t necessary. Classes mainly give a writer a chance to be around others who share their passion.

The perfect writing environment? Doesn’t exist. Do the best you can by creating your own writing space that has a door that closes. Use it.

Writers learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot. The most valuable lessons are the ones that you teach yourself. Those lessons always occur with the door closed on the writing space.

Stephen’s “pearl” today was this quote: “It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell makes the pearl, not pearl making seminars with other oysters.” (page 232, Stephen King, On Writing)

Challenge day 19

Todays read pages 220-231, sections 12 & 13 of chapter On Writing.

Tonight I’ll be short and brief. Short and brief because it’s late and I’m jonesing to get some sleep and short because this part talks about pace.

During the first draft, with the door closed, pace may not have been of concern as that was when the story was being unearthed. Now with a chance to revise and refine through a second draft one should be aware of pace. Look for a happy medium. Too fast and readers will get lost or worn out. Too slow and they will become bored or worse yet put it down. Be careful not to underexplain nor overexplain.

A good rule of thumb is second draft equals first draft minus 10%.

While one needs back story for character definition and motivation, the back story is just that, back. Get through it as quickly as possible while still doing it with grace. Everyone has a history, most of it isn’t interesting. Stick with the interesting.

Research is sometimes necessary when one writes into areas where one might not know much. Research is back story, keep it there. Remember you are writing a novel, not a research paper.

The story always comes first.


Challenge day 18

Todays read pages 208-220, section 11 of chapter On Writing.

How many drafts?

For Stephen King two plus a polish. For a beginner he recommends at least two drafts. The first draft with the study door closed (you the author only just getting the story out unaffected by outside input, interference or opinion), and at least one other draft with the study door open, sharing that first draft with trusted readers.

Upon completion of the very first writing you, the author, who has spent many months and unending hours unearthing this story onto the pages and need time away. Focus on another project or write a short story or go on an adventure…get away from the book. Rest.

Then sit down and go back though that first draft making notes where you see errors or holes. Do not get down on yourself, screw ups happen and can be fixed. Use this to not only fix mistakes but clear out the unnecessary and add clarity. Ask yourself about coherence and about elements, theme, resonance, meaning. After this stage then let a few trusted readers see this first full draft and read it.

Be careful not to be overbearing on your first readers. We writers can be needy. Resist the temptation.

Challenge day 17

Today’s read: pages 200-208, section 9 chapter On Writing.


Theme is really no big deal.

When writing a book one is identifying trees. Once done, step back and look at the forest. Every book worth reading is about something. During or just after the first draft decide what it’s about. In the second draft make that something more clear.

Good fiction begins with the story and progresses to theme.

Once story is on paper think about what it means, then enrich following drafts with conclusions. This makes each tale written uniquely your own.

Challenge day 16

Today’s read pages 189-200, sections 8 & 9 chapter On Writing

Today’s take:

Pay attention to real people around you and tell the truth about what you see. Are fictional characters taken directly from everyday life? No. Well no not directly. However details of behaviors make fictional characters are drawn from life.

The best stories may be character driven but in the end the story should always be the boss. Help readers to understand characters, and even sympathize with them, to make the characters real.

In story telling practice is invaluable and honesty indispensable. Transcribe with clarity (without unnecessary adverbs). Use what bells and whistles work for or improve your writing as long as they don’t get in the way of telling the story. Symbolism exists to adorn and enrich, not create artificial profundity.

Story is about story.

Challenge day 15

Today’s read pages 180-189, section 7 of chapter On Writing.

Dialogue, it gives your cast their voices and is crucial to defining characters. What people are saying often conveys their character in ways of which they are unaware.

Character can be conveyed more vividly through speech. A cardinal rule of good fiction is never tell us anything you can show us. Good dialogue is a delight, bad dialogue is deadly. A writer can improve in respect to dialogue, but a man must know his limitations.

Dialogue is a skill best learned by people who enjoy talking and listening to others…especially listening. The key to writing good dialogue is honesty. It’s important to tell the truth. It must ring true on the page and in the ear. To ring true you must talk yourself and even more importantly listen.

Challenge day 14

With today’s read I realize that some of this will need to be bit off in small doses. As I’ve confessed before I never made it past high school English. I also confessed that I was the teacher’s pet my senior year. If you are capable of reading between those lines I hope you understand that to be 11th grade. I think I squeaked a C out of that 11th grade English class.

Todays read pages 173-180, section 6 of the chapter On Writing.

“Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story.” It’s important to remember that it’s not only ‘how to’ describe but of ‘how much to’. One can only learn by doing. Reading helps this skill.

Begin with a visualization. End by translation what you see to the page. The trick is finding the happy medium. It’s also important to know what to describe. Remember the writer’s main job is telling the story.

Description begins with the writer’s imagination and finishes with the reader’s.

A writer needs to be able to open all of his senses. A writer then needs to remember it’s all about the story.

Stephen then gives us an example of a description that is just enough to help the reader sense the scene to before getting to the story. It was at this point my lack of further English education slowed me down to realize I need only bite off what I can chew. He introduced me to the simile. In other words he mentioned it and I had enough wits to know I needed to stop and find out what one was.

Simile? Thank goodness for google. A simile is a figure of speech comparing two unlike things that is often introduced with like or as. Examples being ‘cheeks like roses’ or ‘expression as cold as ice’.

While reading up on similes I realized that they are similar to metaphors. Oh shit…time (at age 54) I finally found out what one of those is, so I google on. A metaphor is a direct comparison between two seemingly unrelated subjects. For example ‘all the world’s a stage’ or ‘drowning in money’.

Ok so what is the difference in a way this yearning mind can understand?

A simile compares two subjects, compares as to describe. Take ‘cheeks like roses’ which helps me to picture rosey, or pink, cheeks. It doesn’t make me actaullly picture roses in place of cheeks. The cheeks stay cheeks, just pink in color.

A metaphor equates two subjects. The example ‘all the world’s a stage’ helps me see the world’s as a stage. The two are equated and I can see one as the other. Or onto the other ‘drowning in money’ where money isn’t being described, but is equated with drowning in a way I can see the money actually swallowing or overtaking.

There I may not have these two down perfectly, but at least I may now grasp a basic understanding.

Challenge day 13

Today’s read pages 155-173, sections 4&5 of Chapter ‘On Witing’

First I must document that I was short and snapped at The Better Half earlier for a stupid reason and I owe him an apology.

Secondly this read ends with an assignment. I will not be doing this assignment tonight as it is a five to six page write. I will however schedule it into a future day and then let you know how it went.

The nuggets of gold I picked up from this evening’s read are as follows:

Have a door that your are willing to shut on your works space. That closed door tells others as well as yourself that you mean business. Stay focused.

Set a daily writing goal. Start with a realistic one, say with 1000 words a day. Set a time schedule for that writing and stick to it. Take no more than one day a week off. The muse will find you only if he knows when and where you will be because of your habits.

When you are writing you are creating your own worlds. Tell the truth. Write what you like. Use what you know to enrich the story, not to lecture. What I know makes me unique. Be brave, tell them what you know.

Stephen believes stories and novels are composed of three parts. Narration which moves story from point A to point B; description which creates sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue which brings characters to life.

Plot is nowhere. Our lives are plotless. Plot and spontaneity are incompatible.

Start with a situation then characters and uncover the hidden story from there. The novels creator is it’s first reader. If the writer isn’t able to guess with any accuracy of how it’s going to turn out, then that writer can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a page turning anxiety. Use the “What if?” question to uncover or discover interesting situations to write about.

Challenge day 12

Today’s read pages 141-155, new chapter “On Writing “ sections 1-2

I’ve never been a stranger to clairvoyance. It seems my choice to bite this little learning challenge into 10 page bites was just that. When writing Mr. King writes 2000 words a day or about 10 pages. You have my permission to call me Carnac if you wish.

However Stephen King reads much more than 10 pages of other people’s works a day. He considers himself a slow reader. He averages 70-80 books a year. He reads mostly fiction. He believes that if one doesn’t have time to read, then one doesn’t have time to write. Reading others prose “creates  an ease and intimacy with the process of writing.” I take that to mean reading can refine one’s style, sharpen one’s skills and strengthen one’s passion.

Read daily, write daily. It must be your passion, your playtime.

Turn off your TV.

Challenge day 11

Back from the brink of stomach flu hell, we surface by merely sticking our toe into the water. Amidst queasy gurgles of bloating gas with now only intermittent runs to the toilet, I possibly feel good enough to actually concentrate. I open the book and start my read only to realize I was but two pages from the beginning of its next chapter when I last stopped. I’ll take this as a suggestion from above as a testing of the waters and only report back on my two page read as to keep each chapter separated.

Today’s read: pages 135-137, section 5 of Toolbox.

Words create sentences and sentences create paragraphs. Like a carpenter building a mansion, the writer builds one paragraph at a time. Stephen encourages me to construct out of my own volcabulary, my own knowledge of grammar and of my own basic style. I must stay level on level and shave even every door and I can build whatever I like – whole mansions if I wish.

Let us not forget we are discussing a learned skill but sometimes we can agree that the most basic skills can create things far beyond our expectations. Stephen says I’d do well to remember that we are also taking about magic.

Challenge day 10

Todays read: pages 122-135, Toolbox sections 3&4.

English fundamentals are not my area of extpertise. I completed high school English as my Senior English class teachers pet. In other words, I skated  through. I flunked out of my expensive liberal arts college after only one semester, including an F in English. I graduated with an associates degree in applied health sciences for Respiratory Care for which English was not a required subject. When I read anything referring to grammar my eyes glaze over and my mind begins to wonder.

Why in the world would I want to read a book about writing? Much less blog about it?

I read to learn. I read to grow. I blog to reinforce my learning and document what if any growth I obtain. Fortunately Stephen King is making it interesting, easy and entertaining.

Here is my take from today’s read:

Verbs come in two types, active and passive. Passive verbs are for timid writers, avoid them. The passive voice is safe, don’t be safe.

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. The adverb is not your friend. Adverbs seem to have been created, like the passive voice, with the timid writer in mind. Mr. King believes the road to hell is paved with adverbs.

Mr. King also believes fear is at the root of most bad writing. He advises to engergize one’s writing with active verbs.

When forming possessives always add  ‘s, even when the word being modified ends in s -always write Thomas’s bike and never Thomas’ bike.

Expository prose (yes I googled to see what this means) can and should have neat and utilitarian paragraphs. In fiction the paragraph is less structured. Let nature take its corse when writing, the rewrite is when we can adjust or fix structure.

The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader feel welcome. Writing is seduction. Stephen King belives the paragraph, not the sentence, is the basic unit of writing. Paragraphs can be from a single word or run on for pages. One must learn to use the paragraph well if one is to write well.


Challenge day 9

Todays Read: pages 111-122, new Chapter “Toolbox” sections 1 & 2.

Todays tidbits:

It’s always best to bring your complete toolbox with you. One never knows once a job has begun what one might run into. That way one can seize the correct tool and get immediately to work.

Common tools at the top! The most common is volcabulary. Keep it simple, it ain’t how much you got honey, but how you use it. Basic rule is to use the first word that comes to mind. Plain and direct are words to live by.

One will also want grammar on that top shelf. Bad grammar produces bad sentences. One who grasps the rudiments of grammar find a comforting simplicity at its heart, where there need be only nouns, words that name, and verbs, words that act. “Grammar isn’t just a pain in the ass but the pole one grabs to get their thoughts back up on their feet and walking.”

Challenge day 8

Today’s read pages 103-107, divider/chapter/section “What Writing Is”

…yeah I know it’s less than my 10 pages a day but, yes I said but, it’s one to chew on.


I write this evening in a corner of a bedroom just after dusk in San Diego California. Looking out the window I catch a glimpse of the lights of the downtown skyline around the San Diego bay.  Across the bay I can see Coronado island which divides San Diego bay from the mighty Pacific Ocean. Light dances off the water as my eyes linger enjoying the view. A cool breeze lifts the sea air off the water, through my window screen and to the sensory receptors of my nostrils. A ship’s horn interrupts the silence.

Can you see it? Feel it? Smell it? Hear it?

You might be reading this from some other San Diego location the moment I publish it or from a small town in Germany 3 years later. My writing brought us together for an experience we just shared. We weren’t ever in the same room at the same time sharing the same experience, yet we shared it. Writing did that. What other proof might one need to prove the existence of telepathy?

Writing is not to be taken lightly.

Challenge day 7

Today’s read pages 92-101, sections 33-38. Part 1 of Stephen King’s On Writing is now complete.

Today’s take certainly resonates with my own sobriety.

“Telling an alcoholic to control his drinking is like telling a guy suffering the world’s most cataclysmic case of diarrhea to control his shitting.”

Life isn’t a support system for art, it’s the other way around.

Challenge day 6

Today’s read pages 82-92, sections 30-33.

Early day today. Off to my Sunday morning AA meeting momentarily, after that to Petco Park for the last Padre home game of the 2018 season followed by a dinner with family and any and all of life’s business in between. I am a blessed man.

Today’s take is just that. Life has many blessings disguised as life, RE: work, family, struggle,  bills, health, love, sadness and laughter. In and among life’s blessings will come surprises, sometimes great ones. What we must do is simply participate. Work, give, live, create, participate and receive. In other words, just get out there.

Have a blessed day.

Challenge day 5

Pages 69- 82, sections 26-29

Busy Saturday made for late reading. I almost put it off. Alas I’m going to try my best therefore I read.

Damn Mr. King is a good writer.

Today’s take:

Having someone who believes in you makes all the difference. A writers perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the readers. Stopping a piece of work because it is hard is a bad idea. The challenge of not liking, or being uncomfortable with, a character or situation might actually bring about a good work. Possibly an incredibly good work.

I’m finding that his lessons about writing are lessons about life. I’m happy that I took this challenge on. I’m happy I made it a challenge to break it up, to write about it and to digest it in small pieces.

Challenge day 4

Today’s read pages 55-69, sections 20-26

Early day today as the afternoon and evening are booked.

Right now Little Phoebe, our 3.4 pound Yorkie, is at the vet having a teeth cleaning, mom is in her bathroom preparing for her day in front of the TV, our housekeeper is busy upstairs, I have email to get to and clients to call followed by therapy for the shoulder (read 90 minute massage) then dinner to prepare for mom, pick up Phoebe and take mom out on her walk all before I head to this evening’s Padres vs Diamondbacks game at Petco Park.

Entertaining is a good adjective for today’s read.

Today’s takeaway for me is on pages 57 & 62; “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you re-write the story, your main job is taking out all the things that aren’t the story.” & good writing comes spontaneously, in an upbrush of feeling that has to be caught at once. 


Challenge day 3

Today’s read pages 44-54, sections 18 & 19.

Short sweet and simple:

Whatever you create in life be it write, paint, dance, or… someone at some point will ‘constructively’ suggest that you can do better, thus implying you didn’t do well and with that one may feel shame.

Don’t. Don’t ever be ashamed of anything you create. If you briefly do, make it brief and don’t carry the shame. It’s all part of the creative process, even if it wasn’t your best or flat out wasn’t good. It is what will get you to the next thing and the next level, as long as you don’t let shame get you down.