Stephen King’s Top 2 Tips To Becoming A Better Writer

I had hoped to write this post early this morning but I’ve been waylaid in my best made plans.

Today is the day my cast would be removed from my fractured wrist. I’m currently in Buenos Aires, and had planned it so that I could go to an English speaking hospital to have, what I thought, was going to be a fairly straightforward procedure. At least that is what they assured my with the initial surgery in La Paz, Bolivia 4 weeks earlier.

The cast helped contain a fractured and dislocated wrist. Three pins were inserted that look like tent pegs on the subsequent xray. The first hospital (Britannico) was a public one and none of the staff spoke English. My pigeon spanish connected some dots, but the queues were so long that after 2 hours of a frustrated wait I decided to leave. The second hospital was a private clinic (Allemana) and wasn’t much quicker. They charged me for a consultation which lasted 60 seconds, and said I needed an xray to ensure the fracture was healed. All in all, that came to the equivalent of 70 euro. When it came time to remove the cast and pull the pins, they slapped another bill down charging me 820 euro. My hope is that the insurance company covers this and reimburses me or my budget for Brazil will be tiny.

They had to use brute force to pull the pins out and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Nevertheless, I’m sporting a bandaged wrist instead of a cast and have more mobility in my hand. It will be weeks before it is back to normal, but I’m purposely going to start writing with a pen now to exercise the muscle, instead of typing into my laptop (which coincidentally cant charge any more, so is virtually dead to me anyway).

Having the cast on had curtailed a lot of my activities and shortened my weekends. I have been reading quite a lot these past 5 weeks, finishing a novel each week on average. I’m reminded of what Stephen King said in his part biographical, part instructional book, ‘On Writing‘, that good writers tend to, a) read a lot, and b) write a lot.

I’m purposely trying to read a cross of different genres to compare styles and structure. These have been great teachers for me as I now begin to plot ahead of time, thinking of how I would evolve characters. Perversely, I seem to get more satisfaction out of reading bad literature than good. The bad books inspire me – they encourage me that perhaps I can do better, yet those authors are published and some are NYT bestsellers. The critically acclaimed books on the other hand, make me want to shrink into a ball because I don’t have the same flair or panache that those authors have.

This is what I’ve tackled most recently:

James Patterson – Violets are Blue (the first Patterson book I have read – OK)
Jo Nesbo – The Bat (same as above)
Harlan Coban – Stay Close (average)
Louise Candlish – The Disappearance of Emily Marr (not my preferred genre – slow)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez – 100 Years of Solitude (beautiful and simple. At times maddeningly confusing)

At the moment I am reading a novel called Flashback by Dan Simmons. The reviews haven’t been great on amazon but it was the only English language book available in my last hostel!

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