Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The book is boss

I'm not a huge Stephen King fan (probably my fault but I've just never loved his work the way I love certain authors), but I like a lot of things he says about writing.  This quote just reminded me not to force the writing. Sometimes a person can be too aware of craft and technique. Ultimately, it's all about being in the moment of the story. You have to just be there. You have to let the story go where it goes. BUT I think that if you do know craft what you know will be there. It's like when a pro quarterback throws a ball to a receiver with perfect accuracy. He can't think his way to that throw but it's the thousands of hours the quarterback has spent throwing passes that makes it possible.

One of the ways the computer has changed the way I work is that I have a much greater tendency to edit “in the camera”—to make changes on the screen. With Cell that’s what I did. I read it over, I had editorial corrections, I was able to make my own corrections, and to me that’s like ice skating. It’s an OK way to do the work, but it isn’t optimal. With Lisey I had the copy beside the computer and I created blank documents and retyped the whole thing. To me that’s like swimming, and that’s preferable. It’s like you’re writing the book over again. It is literally a rewriting.
Every book is different each time you revise it. Because when you finish the book, you say to yourself, This isn’t what I meant to write at all. At some point, when you’re actually writing the book, you realize that. But if you try to steer it, you’re like a pitcher trying to steer a fastball, and you screw everything up. As the science-fiction writer Alfred Bester used to say, The book is the boss. You’ve got to let the book go where it wants to go, and you just follow along. If it doesn’t do that, it’s a bad book. And I’ve had bad books. I think Rose Madder fits in that category, because it never really took off. I felt like I had to force that one.

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