Reading and Writing in Excess

I had never read Stephen King until recently. Sure, I’d watched the movies. But I’d never sat down and read one of his mammoths. I was a bit ashamed to say that I’d never read his work.

I did finally read Stephen King’s “On Writing”, and that is what turned me onto his work. He’s one of those writers that I can read his work and really enjoy it. He helped me to find the love of reading again.

As a writer, I edit too much when I’m reading. I put down books because I see too many flaws in the writing. I find many premises promising, but I rarely find the execution compelling.

I’m in the middle of reading Stephen King’s Tommyknockers, my third book of King’s. On writing was my first, followed by The Gunslinger since it was so highly recommended to me as a lover of science fiction and fantasy. I’ve started the second book, and I’ll finish it eventually.

Tommyknockers is a long book, as are most of King’s works. I am a writer that writes sparsely, more like Hemmingway than King. I used to write “purple prose” all the time, which I now just reserve for poems (and most of them no one will ever read).

King provides me a view on writing that is different than my own.

He writes extensively, going over every detail. But it’s not that he is writing in a self-indulgent way. He writes in a way that pulls you in and gives you the moment-by-moment experience of every detail in the scene. You don’t just read King – you experience it with all your senses.

While I won’t be changing my style of writing to be like King, I can definitely take some tips from him and how to build a scene. But, most of the time when I read King, an amazing thing happens.

I forget that I’m reading. The prose dissolves and I am just in the story. It’s a pure reading experience.

I’d lost my love for reading, which is a death sentence for a writer. Good writers are good readers. As I read King, I remember what it’s like to get sucked into a book, and how that happens. It’s something I hope to replicate in my own novels – that ability to forget that there is a book in your hands.

If there’s one thing that Stephen King teaches me specifically, it’s that it’s okay to write in excess. Much of it will be cut out. But there are times when much of it will stay.

I am trying to give myself permission to write in excess. To really explore a world without worrying about boring someone. That comes later with editing.

As a writer, I have a bad habit of “talking head syndrome” where my characters have a lot of dialogue and some beats to ground them, but they don’t exist in a setting. The conversations take place in a white room.

As I go through and re-read my writing, I try to insert more pieces of setting, where small details and interactions can really add to the story, as if the setting is a character itself.

Ideally, I’d like to do this from the beginning like King does. It’s something I’m working on. That’s the wonderful thing about writing – you’re always learning and growing.

How have some of your favorite authors helped you grow as a writer and a reader?

3 thoughts on “Reading and Writing in Excess

  1. In reading John Updike, William Faulkner, and Flannery O’Connor, I’ve thought more about the depth of my characters and the message I want to convey. I’ve worked on the same novel for years but after reading the aforementioned authors, I realized how shallow my characters were. I didn’t care about them and they avoided all flaws. I tried to make them likable…to a fault. Reading different authors has allowed me to see characters that are “bad” but aren’t just that. I’ve learned a lot about paradox in characters. Rather than forcing my readers to see a character one way, I have to let them live and be contradictory in their existence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m actually about to take a class on creating characters – it’s so difficult to create a detailed, flawed character! But, the wonderful thing about writing is we are always improving. I need to do what you’re doing and read more of the classics.

      Like

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