Quotes Challenge #3

readkingI’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:

The Good

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:

The Wait-A-Minute

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.

What?

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!

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7 responses to “Quotes Challenge #3

  1. The first quote could also be going in a “if you want to read but can’t/won’t make time for it, haha no” direction. I’m not sure that’s how King meant it but that’s how I read it at first, as sort of a general comment about the commitment it takes to make space for certain things on your life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My first impression of this quote was also something of “this is a little pretentious, Mr. King.” But after second (and third) thought, I think he means precisely what he says without the pretension or sarcasm. I don’t know if this quote came from his book on writing, so I may just be taking this out of context!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, not all of us are lucky enough to be Stephen King, who gets paid to write. But I think the point is that you have to keep at it, even if it means pushing other hobbies or lower-priority things out of the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! We may hear about it more often than not, but I believe the majority of writers don’t have the ability to churn out a book (and a top-seller one at that) in six month’s time. But yet, I see a lot of blogs/tweets out there that tote this quote as if the writing life is that simple. Like any endeavor, you can’t achieve it if you’re spending your time on everything but!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post and insightful–especially the short quote one:) I think the key word in the first post is “tools” and that the time aspect is over emphasised. I agree that if you don’t read you probably don’t have ‘the way of the story’ engrained in you and will have fewer tools to write.
    There are a lot of writers who don’t read while working on a first draft, purely to retain their voice. Then they make some time to read after. I’m one of those. It works for me, and I don’t care what Stephen King or anybody else says either: writers, by definition, should be spending more time on writing tasks, than reading.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Very good point! I do find that when I’m 110% immersed in writing in my novel, I don’t have the time or interest in reading anything during that time. But that’s a very good observation about how reading can interfere with your writer’s voice. It’s similar to the suggestion that transcribing works from your favorite author helps one write better. I’ve written down snippets and specific words from a favorite book here and there, but as far as transcribing chapters… where does one find the time!

      Liked by 2 people

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