122 Rules by Deek Rhew

Sunday, March 17, 2013

On Writing

On Writing
It may not be lost on you that the title of my blog is named after a book by Stephen King. Like everything else I write, this may or may not be just about writing--spoiler alert! probably not!--but I named it after him because he is my literary hero.

Arguably there are authors who write with a larger vocabulary, create better more vivid descriptions, have a higher Lexile reading level, blah blah blah, but there is no one that can tell a better story, and for me it is all about the story. Rather or not you like his genre is immaterial. The man can spin a yarn that hooks you from word one.

I remember riding around in the back of my dad's old Barricuda, the one with the huge dent in the side. The dent was made when he turned left in front of an oncoming Beetle and there wasn't quite enough time to get across the lane before the car was struck...in the passenger rear...where is oldest son--that would be me--sat watching as the oncoming car made impact less than a foot from his face. The back window was shattered and the bug had to be towed away from the scene, but the Barricuda was built like a tank and kept me safe. To this day I can still see that bright orange bug as it sailed across the macadam under a grey sky and the face of the man behind the wheel when he realized the inevitable.

In the back of the car I could here my dad playing, on 8-track I think, old Homer and Jethro concerts over and over. The beauty of that particular format was you could just let it spin, never having to flip or rewind. He loved those guys and as the years go by I can still hear them singing Camp Kookamonga and We Didn't Sink the Bismark. On one of the tapes they boys are mocking their own considerable talents, they were like Jack Benny in that they constantly made fun of themselves, and how they were jealous of another singer, like Johnny Cash or Jim Reeves--my Google skills are not up to the task of tracking down this particular quote--about how this singer, whomever it was, could "sing the phone book, and get a hit!" Well, that's Stephen King.

His subject could be about the phone book...and get a hit! It doesn't matter what he writes about, his tales are compelling, his characters relateable, his antagonists deliciously bad, and his stories are something you can happily spend an afternoon getting lost in. That's what it's all about for me.

I have finished my first book, 122 Rules, a couple of weeks ago. I love to read and listen to pod casts and audio books--my commute is 45 minutes one way--but while dumping the content of the book was afraid to listen to anything that might break the spell that I get in during the throws of the creative process. After I started the editing, I listened to his On Writing book for which this blog is named. In it he talks about how he doesn't plan his books, that they are organic, something discovered like a fossil that has to be dug up from the ground. This absolutely amazed me, because a year before after I had been writing a few months, I described the process to a friend almost verbatim.

For me it's a statue, at least thus far it had been, I am digging up from the ground. It already exists and I have a team working with some large piece of equipment, for whatever reason in my minds eye it looks like a small Zamboni, scanning the desert. For days they will find nothing, then ping something fuzzy and often large shows up on the little monochrome screen. The image is always fuzzy with just a hint of the outline, but when they find something the workers are insistent that I deal with it...NOW!

It happened this weekend, my crew found something buried in the earth and woke me at 4 AM to deal with it. "Wake up, boss. We got us sometin' you need da see." I mulled it over for an hour or so and finally got up and wrote the outline of what I think could be a pretty good little story. That makes two in the hopper after I finish the follow-up to 122.

There is more, so much more, that I could say about the man and his work and what he wrote in On Writing, and undoubtedly I will. But will leave it at that...for now.

Carry on.

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