I have a whole shelf of writing books, but they are a lot like diet books. They don’t make you a writer unless you take the time to write. Diet books don’t make you thin by seeing the covers, and writing book don’t make you a writer unless you do the work and practice.
Although I was surrounded by books and had chores calling, I picked up Stephen King’s On Writing yesterday. I liked the book years ago and always meant to reread it. As I scanned the first pages, I was hooked and read the book like it was an entirely new one for me. King’s language can be crude, but his story is fascinating. He came from humble beginnings, had no leg up from anyone, and got his toe in the publishing door by his work. The rest is history. The first third of the book is his memoir and includes details about his winning the battle against alcoholism.
I have never been a King fan because I wasn’t crazy about his genre. I do admit he is a fascinating writer. When my son was in junior high, there was some parental discussion about having King on the shelves. I had tried to steer my son to literature, but like other kids, he was hiding Stephen King in his locker. I asked him to bring it home so I could see what he was reading as I had never read King. It was a collection of short stories, and while it had sexual references and some vile language not suitable for kids, the writing was so good I could see why the kids were reading King’s work. I read one story, “The Raft” I think it was, that scarred the bejebbers out of me. My palms sweat and my heart raced. In the end, the community balked at King and had him removed from school library shelves.
I later read a King novel about a Buick that I also found frightening. An engrossing story, but I think it was my last King until his book on writing.
King recalls that he wrote as early as second grade in a primary tablet. His mother encouraged him, and he wrote stories and sold them for a quarter a piece. Having someone believe in you helps you value your own work at any age. I loved words, learning, and knowledge from the get-go, and I remember one of my dad’s cousins giving me a great feeling about my putting pencil to paper. I was probably in second or third grade when I started “keeping facts”, research for future writing. I wrote important things like how long the Nile was, how a volcano worked, and what a Morgan horse was used for on pieces of paper and kept them in a folder. No one paid attention to me except Clara Marie who was single at the time, worked as the Farm Bureau secretary, and sometime slept on our couch. When night meetings of Farm Bureau directors kept her in town late, she avoided the rather long country miles home in the dark by sleeping on our couch.
One day she asked me if she could type my “book” for me. She made it all orderly, put the pages in a manila folder and stapled them together into a book of sorts. Oh, I was so proud of my writing! I kept that little folder until well into adulthood; I wish I had it now.
Yesterday I got a contract from True Story for use in the coming May issue. About two years ago I wrote a story and peddled it to every romance/confession market I could find. It came back faster than I could send it out, and I never knew what was wrong with it. I stuck it away. When I heard Dorchester’s call out for Mother’s Day stories, I remembered the story and pulled it out. There were new editors now; would they read the story differently?
I guess they did because in ten days, they responded with acknowledgement that they received the work (wow, this courtesy was something new—and nice!), then yesterday they sent me a contract. It is already signed and back in their hands. So another lesson in not giving up, leaving no stone unturned. It was worth a try to submit again because the worst they could do was say NO, a word I am familiar with for sure. This time it paid off. So I am sure King would agree to not giving up in any phase of the writing/publishing arena. A rejection doesn’t always mean the work is unworthy, just that the manuscript landed on the wrong desk. Keep sending...
Now excuse me as I want to finish this Stephen King book, again.