Posted by: Elen C | July 23, 2011

On Writing – By Paul Manship

Apologies. These are not really my thoughts. They belong to some obscure writer called Stephen King. I still feel a bit exhausted from the summer term. It will  take a few days for my brain to be functioning as normal.

I read King’s book “On Writing” recently (recommended by Ruth Morgan) to see if I could pick up any tips. I noted down a few ideas I liked:

 Omit needless words.

 My editor, Viv, would completely agree with that sentiment. “If in doubt, cut it out,” is one of her mantras. Since working with her, I have learned to be more ruthless as a self-editor

Writing fiction can be a difficult, lonely job: it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt.

 I would disagree with this to some extent. Although writing is a solitary activity, you sort of create your own company (“friends”) with the characters and world you come up with. And, in any case, sometimes it’s quite relaxing and peaceful to be on your own.

I would agree with the self-doubt issue, especially in the days before you are fortunate enough to be published. Writing requires a huge investment in time and I remember thinking, while writing my first two books, ‘Am I wasting my time? Is this a hopeless dream? Should I be spending more time with my family?’

However, I would guess that we all possess a pretty strong element of self-belief to counter-act that self-doubt, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to persevere.

Stephen King points out that creating stories gives you an immense feeling of possibilities – as if you are ushered into a vast building filled with closed doors and are given leave to open any you like, more doors than you could possibly open in one life-time.

I’m a big fan of portal stories. They must have crept deep into my psyche as a child – C. S Lewis’s wardrobe, Lewis Carroll’s rabbit-hole, the tornado in The Wizard of Oz. My latest effort (“Just Imagine”, out next Spring, £5.99) is certainly influenced by the latter two books.

King believes that there is no Idea Dump, no Story Central. Good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky (like the shoe that lands on Stanley Yelnats in”Holes”). Sometimes, two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. I know that Michael Morpurgo came up with “The Butterfly Lion” after meeting  Virginia McKenna in a lift, then seeing the Uffington white horse on a train journey.

When you write, you’re telling yourself the story.

When you re-write, your main job is taking out all the bits that are not the story. Sometimes the theme of our story is not obvious until that first draft is finished. Then we need to reinforce the elements of the story that support the theme and get rid of some parts that are surplus to requirements.

Writing is a type of telepathy. It’s a meeting of minds. The writer sits in his best transmitting place, whether that be study, bedroom or shed and the reader sits in his best receiving place. It’s telepathy not just over place but over time as well. Sometimes the meeting of minds takes place after one of the parties is deceased!

And finally…..

Writing is serious stuff. Do not approach the blank page lightly.




  1. I did really enjoy that book. I’d recommend it to writers at any stage of their career. In fact, your post has made me think it’s time for a re-read!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: