I’m not a fiction writer

The cool, collected academic narrative is my forte. I can produce a five-page paper on the biological competition between invasive Asian carp and native species of fish in the Great Lakes without breaking a sweat. But when I’m asked to write creatively without a specific prompt or concrete guidelines, my mind goes as blank as the paper in front of me.

So imagine my surprise when I saw the words “fiction” and “horror” appear seemingly by their own volition at the top of my repurposing proposal. The truth is that the idea of writing a chapter in my own imagined horror novella excites me, but I have no idea how to begin. So I turned to the master of horror himself for help.


“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of bad writing.”

So writes the notorious Stephen King in his book on creating works of fiction/prose. I found a lot of truth in this sentence. It’s easy to settle into the comfort of writing academically because you really aren’t putting very much of yourself on the page; when it’s evaluated, it is only the writing being critiqued, not you. But writing creatively, as King describes, requires all of you, one hundred percent, and you can’t half-ass it because you’re afraid it will be bad (because then it will be bad).

I found that replacing all the aforementioned hypothetical “you’s” with “I’s” and “me’s” yields a pretty decent pep-talk for embarking on a project such as the one I’ve taken on.

King intended this book,  On Writing, to be not so much an overarching, presumptuous mandate that every prospective writer must blindly follow (there are already plenty of those already, he writes), but rather more akin to the subtitle he chose for the book; “A Memoir of the Craft”. That is exactly what he accomplished. The book is saturated with the anectdotes and experiences that he himself has had with writing, or simply those that in retrospect were fundamental to his development as a writer. With this book, he deconstructs the fairytale of Stephen King the Bestseller, revealing the every day person underneath that writes because he loves to, and struggles with it sometimes – just like anyone else.

I gathered a lot of valuable insight from reading On Writing, and it has been a tremendous help to the development of my project, which I plan to shape in the image of his writing style. Here is on of my favorite chunks of the book that I hope can help you, too:

“I’m not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I’m not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor (please God you have one). This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s not the moral Olympics, and it’s not church. But it’s writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can’t or won’t, it’s time for you to close the book and do something else.

Wash the car, maybe.”

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