I recently listened to Stephen King’s book On Writing. If you haven’t read or heard it yet, I recommend you get to it. King himself narrates the audio version, and that Maine accent makes his very practical advice seem all the more straightforward and brass tacks. I loved it. The one caveat I’d offer is that most masters of their craft can veer into the didactic when it comes to method. Because something works for them, they assume they have found the way, the truth and the light for the rest of us. King is no different. But unless you’ve already come up with something better, you probably ought to take him on faith.
I agreed with just about all of it, especially his debunking of the commonly held belief that there is a vast conspiracy within the book industry to keep the unknown and unconnected writer locked out. It’s very tempting to buy into that when you are the unknown and unconnected writer, as I very well remember. There was a time when I would play Six Degrees of Separation whenever I heard of someone getting a juicy book deal, connecting the dots until I figured out how they knew who. I’m not going to tell you it doesn’t matter who you know (or more, accurately, who knows about you). But it doesn’t matter in the way I thought it did. What matters is that someone in publishing is convinced they can sell your book. It’s really that simple, and King does a great job of illustrating how a writer, starting out with no connections or publishing credits (or reality show), goes about the process of accumulating them.
Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
Who ate a monstrous whale?
She thought she could,
She said she would,
So she started in right at the tail…
The thing is, starting in at the tail takes commitment and action. For some, it’s easier to imagine there’s a way to get the whole whale into your belly without all that chewing.