Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Writer's Lab: Six lessons we can learn from a family of writers

The Stephen King family is an exceptional group of novelists, in which writing seemingly turned into a family business.

While you could marvel in astonishment at the accomplishments of this family of authors, you might like to delve deeper - as I did - to read between the lines and see where their success might result from.

It's obvious from reading their accounts that the King family have their peculiarities, as well as an incredible work ethic.

But reading more deeply, we can distinguish six lessons the example of the King empire teaches us about writing.

Lesson 1: Read a lot
It's obvious from the very beginning of the account about the King family that they read a lot. The children would record audiobooks for Stephen King, and their library seems to be very impressive. You can't write without reading a lot - I've claimed earlier that reading sparks creativity, and their massive background must have been helpful for the Kings.

Lesson 2: Writing takes practice

As a teenager, Joe already wrote for two hours a day. Imagine how many hours of honing out his craft Joe already got in by the time he reached his twenties? Even though all beginning as an author is difficult, the many hours of practice and the search for your own voice all are something that -well- take time. You don't wake up one morning as a great writer - it's the result of deliberate practice.

Lesson 3: Don't be afraid of the big guys
Kelly Braffet married the son of Stephen King, and was very intimated at first. Only now that she published "Save Yourself", she turned to the Kings for advice - before than that, she tried to stay away from their influence. This example teaches us that there's nothing wrong to turn to the big fish to ask for advice - sometimes, they're more welcoming to help you out than you'd might expect.

Lesson 4. Don't be afraid of asking for advice from your partner

Tabitha's influence on King's work is much more than a traditional "stand by your man" approach. As a writer herself, she has given valuable advice to Stephen King. Sometimes it is said that you shouldn't take your work home. This example, however, shoes us that it might be the other way around: discuss openly with your partner what you're working on, especially if you are in the same field. Their expertise is available right there, and will be shared with a lot of love.

Lesson 5: Sit down to discuss others' work/writing
The King family would sit together and discuss other novels, and what could make the plots or characters better. Likewise, you could sit with fellow academic writers when you work through a paper to identify what could have done better in that paper; how to writing more clearly could have conveyed the message. Similarly, I like to take some of my "favorite" papers (i.e. clearly written) when I prepare a manuscript to focus on the precise elements that, in my opinion, make a piece of writing strong.

Lesson 6. Keep it light
The King family would play "the writing game", in which they'd think up scenarios about saving their hero of choice out of danger, and then the next family would be putting him in peril again. They'd also play "Ex Libris", in which they all try to write the best opening line for an existing book. Playing these games keeps their minds vivid, their creativity alive and -most of all- puts the fun into their craft. Never forget to add a drop of fun, joy and lightness to your work and writing - there's already more than enough mediocrity on this world, you might as well add a "zing" to what you do by staying playful.

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