POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE
I Love A Terrible Book
By Nandy Ekle
In his book, On Writing, Stephen King says, “So we read to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us to recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them. We also read in order to measure ourselves against the good and the great, to get a sense of all that can be done. And we read in order to experience different styles.”
When I started writing my prose was a stream of repetitious flowery poetic vomit. I did keep to the rule of three, but everything I wrote repeated itself three times. I had three metaphors, followed by three adjectives in a long sentence with three complex parts. I had endless descriptions of every molecule in the space my characters inhabited. I wrote conversations that sounded like Shakespearean type speech. I was determined to wow the world with how many words I knew and how well I could put them together. And to make matters worse, I defended my writing style to anyone who criticized it.
One day I picked up a book by an author who actually has a fair size following and began reading. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my style was a lot like his. The kicker to this was that I hated his book. I read another one of his stories, and didn’t like it even more than I didn’t like the first one. And it seemed that the more of his writing I read, the less I cared for him as an author.
I took another look at my own stories and cringed with embarrassment. It didn’t take long for me to re-evaluate my style and change.
I have realized that even though I will never be a fan of this particular author, I am very grateful for having read his books. He was as effective a teacher as a doctorate of the English language would be.
When reading a story, whether an article in the newspaper, confession magazine, or epic novel, pay attention to the author’s style. If it’s good, learn from it. If it’s not so great, learn from that too.
Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.