I’ve always struggled with this word of advice by Stephen King. I don’t whole-heartedly agree with it, yet neither do I whole-heartedly disagree with it. It’s one of the many internal conundrums I have. There’s a plethora of “advice” out there in the interwebs that tell you to do this or that, don’t do this or that, and all these quips and clever sayings coming from a number of established authors. I’ve read many stories of writers who submit their work to agents claiming to be the best in their genre, yet have no clue about the genre they’re submitting to.
This has all been said and done before. The issue I have with this quote is how I’m seeing it from two different angles:
If you don’t have a good sense of how a book works, how can you expect a publisher to pick it up? This point is kind of moot in my opinion because most writers like to read.
And if you don’t read, have no interest in reading, how can you expect to write a decent story? (I don’t think this theory applies to nonfiction writers, though it does help to have a competent knowledge in composition.) Reading, not just in your genre, but the written word in all its various forms, is beneficial. Even if you’re not reading to learn, your subconscious automatically picks up the basic structure and form of a novel.
For the most basic example, most readers know that there is a beginning setup, a middle where the story unfolds, and an ending climax.
The essence of this quote, perhaps, is that if your life is spent doing everything but reading, where will you find the time to write? If you’re not interested in taking the time to read, where will you find the ambition to write?
But this quote always leads me to this moment:
Is he saying that to write, one must read (also), or else they aren’t a writer?
A) So if I have time to read, then that means I have time to write.
Where’s the time to read? Since my day is spent at work, then homemaking, or taking care of the kids, or anything that keeps my physical body preoccupied, and I choose to write instead of read in my spare hour, I’m a dolt of a writer because I don’t have time to read? What if it takes me two hours to write a thousand words. It’s 12am by then, when will I have the time to read? I need to be at work at 7am tomorrow!
B) Is my writing quality equally proportionate to the books I’ve read? If I only read crappy books, will that make my own writing crappy? If I only read well-written books, will that automatically make my writing well-written?
I think this second quote is more concise than that first catchy “shame-on-you” quote. What King really means by that first quote is what I initially felt: that if you don’t know about stories, how can you properly tell one?
Maybe I analyze too much.
It only figures that a short quote gets more attention than the one that requires more reading.
Okay, so this Quotes Challenge took me way more than three days, but better late than never, right?
In turn, I nominate the following blogs to do the Quotes Challenge — which they are more than welcome to ignore!
- The C-Sweet sweetness over at Coming At You Live
- Mr. Paul over at Windblown Words
- Miss Danielle over at The Caffeinated Writer