Stephen King says you should write at least a thousand words a day (if you are a newbie) before moving on to the two thousands that he averages. I don’t particularly like King’s style even though I devoured his horror fiction as a teenager, but I’ve found myself listening to his book On Writing
these past few nights (even falling asleep to it), thanks to a free audio version on YouTube.
His main theme is that you can’t improve a poor or good writer, but you can turn a competent one into a good one. I’m not so sure about that – does he also include storytellers in that mix? – but I agree with him that you need a space of your own to write, to shut out the world, and that you need routine. Otherwise nothing gets done.
He also believes that plotting ruins a story, stiffens it - kills some of the surprising elements in it. Better to just put your characters in a situation and then watch them try to get out of it. What happens when a mother and son get trapped in a car, attacked by a dog? (Cujo
) What happens when a family move into a remote, empty hotel and the husband goes nuts? (The Shining
) There's a whole bestseller publishing industry that goes against this philosophy.
The guesthouse is empty this morning and I have the luxury of choosing to sleep in or do a bit of writing. I’ve braved the chilly outdoors to open the front door for our employees (who arrive at 7.30am) and serve a bowl of food to one of our dachshunds, Marcelinho. I’m now sipping on an instant cappuccino I prepared in my room, listening to iTunes on Shuffle and watching the sun creep up against my bedroom wall. My fingers are tapping away, as you know.
It rained yesterday and it was blissful. Our region has been suffering from extreme drought and we had even resorted to using tap water to keep the grass and trees green. A young couple from Norway arrived last week and will stay with us until the end of May. They heard of us through a programme called WWOOF
that connects organic farms with people interested in working exchange for full board. In the first few days they did an impressive clean up job of our veggie garden; now that rain is here (fingers crossed), I can get them to plant winter veggies like beet and lettuce. At the end of their stay, I plan on getting them to plant two trees – so they can visit us in 20 years time and see how tall they have grown.