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Learning Lessons from the Greats

I’ve just started reading Stephen King’s novel On Writing. It is a fascinating and well-written book that has the feel of an autobiography, with writing advice if you pay close enough attention. However, what I really love about this book is that it is inspiring. I just finished the section of the book where he discusses getting Carrie published. Through his recollection of this, I learn a lot about his life, but also about how the publishing process worked at this time. But even more than that, I learned something I felt I could apply to my own writing.

Stephen King mentions that the first version he wrote of Carrie wasn’t very good. He throws it away, only to later be inspired by his wife’s interest in it. The problem is that he knows very little about high school girls and doesn’t feel particularly connected to his main character. He goes on to explain how he “fixes” this problem.

I think we’ve all had a character or a situation we tried writing about, even though it wasn’t in our comfort zone. Just recently, I really pushed the boundaries of what I write, to see what I am capable of creating. But I think I learned the same lesson Stephen King learned, although I didn’t get a multi-million dollar book out of it. It is fine to write about things we are unknowledgeable about, but until we do some research, and find a way to connect personally with our characters and topic, the piece will never live up to its full potential.

Have you ever written something that was out of your comfort zone? And if so, what did you do to better understand and connect with your topic or characters?

Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. I’m not a fan of 1st person point of view. That isn’t to say i won’t read a book in 1st. I wrote a short story in first as an exercise. I like the story, but I found first to a daunting task. My opinion; it is the hardest pov to do well. I did it to challenge myself, and I think I did an okay job for 6,000 words. However, I don’t think anyone will ever see a novel length project from me in first. It’s good to stretch though. My advice, do get outside your comfort zone, stretch your wings, but start small.

    Reply
  2. Every time I sit down to start a new story, I know there is some aspect of it that I consider a challenge–POV, a specific character’s personality, a plot point–something that will make me stretch my writing muscles. In my very humble opinion, I think to grow as writers, we have to push our limits to discover something precious.

    Reply

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