Thursday, January 28, 2010

Murdering your darlings

The above is a paraphrased quote from Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. This is a book which he wrote and tells the reader, very conversationally, a bit about how he got started with his writing, and how to write better.
It is quite simply one of the best books I have ever read on this subject. You know what? It IS the best.
I first read it several years ago, and just finished re-reading it now.

He says some of the best advice he got from someone else was that you have to be prepared to murder your darlings. Your darlings are your words, maybe words that you are especially proud of, but if they don't progress the story, or are redundant or padding, you need to get rid of them.

It's interesting, and he's right.
I am sitting at my new work space in the new house. Once again I have my old kitchen table that is motherfuck big, huge enough for me to have lots of piles of crap on it and still plenty of space to work. It faces a stretch of bay windows - four of them, count them, 1, 2, 3, 4 - and I can see an enormous house across the street and rose bushes and greenery along our front fence. The light is wonderful.

To my left are two bookcases filled with books.

Here's one:

Then to each side of the bookcase are stacks of other books that won't fit.

On the left, yes, evidence of my Stephen King collection. For a couple of decades, these books (along with my Jackie Collins, Agatha Christies, Sidney Sheldons, Robert Ludlums and Dick Francises etc) have been hidden away in boxes in whatever garage I've had my "extra shit" in.

I am now out and proud. I read these books voraciously when I was younger. Couldn't get enough of them, but balanced them out with deeper, more literary readings. I don't read a lot of genre but these good folks represent the genre I did read: horror (only good horror, ie Stephen King, but also dabbled in a bit of Anne Rice and a writer called Dennis Wheatley. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has heard/read him. The first book I read of his was called The Satanist and my bro and I loved it.

My dad put me onto Ludlum and Dick Francis. Excellent story writers, I enjoyed them so much.


The other day I popped into the BookGrocer in High St, Northcote. We pass this place weekly/fortnightly, but always with the car full of child and on the way to dinner in the north. I had my opportunity to stop and bought the following:

So much excitement and joy. Have to finish what I'm reading now before I delve.
Books I am in the middle of:
The Lovely Bones
The Hand that Signed the Paper*
Anna Karenina
John Irving's new one, something about Twisted River. He's on Radio National tomorrow by the way, with Ramona Koval at 10am and repeated at 8pm. One of the my favourite authors, and if I had to name one who I have adored the most, 'twould be him.
I'll show you my other bookcase next time.
* I have read this and am re-reading after just having finished The Demidenko Files - which is a fascinating and comprehensive collection of all news articles and some radio time on the Demidenko/Milesa Franklin/anti-semitism scandal.


Esz said...

I really really love Stephen King and his whole outlook on life and perception of the universe which comes through in his books. Everyone seems to think his stuff is pretty trashy but his books have enriched my life.

I will have to try this Dennis Wheatley I think - I love good horror.

Have you got round to any Iain Banks yet? And how is The Lovely Bones going? I just watched the movie and it was a muddled mess, but still not the worst I've seen. I hear the book is better so it may be time to read it.

Melba said...

Just finished Bones tonight. It is a lovely book, yes the movie was pretty messy but I thought the acting was strong. Too much Peter-Jackson weird shit in it though. Too much.

Haven't gotten to Iain Banks yet. I do remember you recommended him.

Dennis Wheatley is pretty good, intellectual horror. It's supernatural-type stuff. I liked it.

BookMoth said...

Middlesex! Swoon! One of my fave books evah. I read that the same year I read The Corrections, Everything Is Illuminated and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. God that was a good year... 2002, I think? 2003?

Also, on the topic of literary frauds: if you haven't yet, you've gotta see Forbidden Lies, the documentary-thriller (it really is a thriller) about Norma Khouri, author of Forbidden Love. Definitely shades of Demidenko. Amazing. Utterly compelling.

squib said...

I'm up to page 605 of Anna K. I don't know how you can read more than one book at once

I'd love to have these *drool*

Melba said...

You've overtaken me squib. I'm stuck at 510. I don't read complete books, several at once. I read, stop, read something else, either finish that one, then either go back to the first and finish or go to something else, either read it or drop it. Like that. I know it's messy but I'm not compelled to finish a book no matter what.

Yes BookMoth, Norma Kouri, what a fascinating doco. Saw that late last year on tv? Amazing similarities. I know Helen Demidenko is now practising as a lawyer and blogs I think. What a thing that was.

Lots of people rave about Middlesex so I'm looking forward to it. And finishing A Heartbreaking Work... where is my copy?

Leilani said...

In Cold Blood is in my top 5 books. I must head up to TBG (my local book shop)and pick up a copy because even though I love it and have read it several times - I don't actually own a copy.

eat my shorts said...

Seriously, those photos of your books & book shelves are like p0rn for readophiles.

I've just started reading Simone de Beauvoir's The Prime of Life. I haven't read Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter yet though, which I'm disappointed about because I really wanted to read that first. I was going to buy The Second Sex at the same time, but it was too heavy to carry home & I didn't have enough money!