Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Misery of Writing by Stephen King

No, it's not his new title, it's not even a real book. But it could be. Have you read Misery by Stephen King? It came out in the 80's, I saw the movie and loved it but for some reason never read the book until yesterday. Although I am a huge fan of his writing, I get a bit tired of the genre. Horror stories aren't my thing, neither is the religious zealot spawns psychotic killer, a recurring theme in his books since Carrie. But still, I've read many of his books just to get my fix of his incredible writing. A master storyteller with all the skills that go along with that, this guy has never gotten the acclaim he deserves for his literary accomplishments. He's too often been seen as the bestselling hack writer, and he is so, so much more than that!

If you want a trip, read King's On Writing, followed up by Misery. Basically everything he says about writing in his nonfiction, staid, autobiographical and controlled book (excellent btw) is also said in his horror, thriller, nightmarish tale of the psychotic Annie Wilkes and her captive writer Paul Sheldon. The symbolism in Misery was hilariously clear to me. Maybe because I'm really deep into writing, editing and struggling with a new wip, but I kept seeing analogies everywhere.

The writer with two broken legs forced to keep on writing. He's trying to get away. Ooops, time to chop off a foot. He complains about his tools at hand. Time to lose a thumb, then see how hard it is! He can't leave the house, can't party, can't avoid the work of writing--and guess what? This turns out to be his masterpiece.

It's all there in Misery. The writer's life in glorious, horrible Stephen King excess and gore:

The love/hate, dependent relationship between the author and editor.
The tendency to "cheat" in storytelling-- why it's wrong and how to fix it.
The idea of "can he?" when plotting checked against the "did he?".
The role that drugs and alcohol will often play in the writer's life.
The concept of writing for the public as opposed to writing for oneself.
The idea of "the hole in the paper," when a writer experiences that place of storytelling where he can get lost and time loses all meaning.
The "gotta" moments when all else gets put on hold and the words can't come fast enough--I gotta finish this! (and that's me reading a Stephen King novel. I gotta finish!)

The copy I read last night came from the library. I gotta buy one for myself! And I gotta buy On Writing! They'll go side by side on the shelf next to my other motivational writing books. And really, I think Misery is the one that's the most motivational.


  1. I've yet to finish Steven King's On Writing. Everyone who reads it says how good it is. My mistake was getting the audio version. I play it while I do housework, but have to turn it off due to the coarseness of his language and examples. There are children afoot at my house. A book where I could skim over those parts would have been better.

  2. Agree with you there, Kate. I wouldn't suggest any audiobook of Stephen King, especially not with small children around. I think Misery was one of his least offensive ones, because one of Annie Wilkes personality traits was to swear by saying things like "cockadoodie" and "poopie-doopie" and "dirty birdy." Which is so funny, considering she doesn't think twice about knocking someone off, but she won't swear....

  3. I have On Writing on my counter just waiting for me...too bad I'm such a slow reader and Elantris is the typical fantasy length!

    Maze Runner is waiting for me too. Ah, so much to do, so little time!

  4. M, read On Writing when you're in the mood for a biography, because it's really more of a memoir than it is a writing book. And to tell you the truth, I found Misery more motivating and instructive as a "writing book" than I did On Writing!!

  5. M.--I read Elantris over Christmas break and loved it. Wish I could plot like that.

  6. I admit I haven't read much Steven King... Cat's Eye and is it Silver Bullet? Shorter stories. I get freaked out easily. BUT, I love his style and he says some great things on writing. I should look into him more. He had a great interview in WD a few issues ago. Fantastic. Thanks for more books to add to my list. Aak!

  7. I think he's brilliant. But some of his stuff is pretty intense.

  8. Wow, I had no idea how he wove the non-fiction On Writing into Misery. I read a lot of his books as a teen, but I grew out of the genre. Real world is more scary and don't want to add to my own fears.

    I love your post!

  9. Thanks, Christine, nice to have you stop by!

  10. Hi

    Like Krista I only am more familiar with movies based on Stephen King than his novels. My first ever Stephen King novel based film I saw was Carrie. And I loved it! So I immediately got the book to read. I have to say I preferred the film and wanted the book to be just like the film! And so was most disappointed.

    Then ever since I started to take my writing seriously and became active in writing forums etc On Writing has been much quoted and referred to. The fact that it was Stephen King made me think - but he ruined Carrie the film!! In my defence, I was young-er and sillier then.


    I think now is the time for me to get that book.

    p.s. Kathy Bates in Misery was fantastic!

    Take care

  11. I read Carrie before seeing the film, and it was all so long ago, I don't remember which one I liked better. With Misery, it was the other way around, I saw the film first. And YES, Kathy Bates was the BEST. I kept seeing her face and hearing her voice as I read the novel.