Day One – Novelist Writing Exercise – A Cat and a King
There’s something living under my shed.
Stephen King says to write everyday –
One word at a time –
Be consistent with it –
Work your intuitive muscle –
Let the stories unfold –
Like finding a fossil in the ground, uncover it slowly –
One little piece at a time –
Until the whole discovery is made.
I like this approach.
It’s more organic – less institutional – like I am.
I now know I will read his books and get past my fears and embrace his storytelling abilities.
Finding his book “On Writing” was Divinely guided. Really, it was.
My daughter and I were on a girl’s outing day to go dress shopping for my son’s wedding.
We arrived at the shopping mall, eager to have a whole afternoon of window shopping and dress hunting, yet it was in the first store we went into, that I found not just one, but two dresses that were appropriate mother-of-the-groom dresses that suit my current body shape, still look elegant and were priced right. (which is why I bought both of them)
So after only an hour of dress shopping, with that mission successfully completed, we began wandering the mall wondering what to do next. We decided to go to Indigo/Chapters across the street from the shopping mall. It hadn’t been open for mindless exploring the past year due to the pandemic and the resulting lock-downs, so it was apt to be a refreshing adventure.
I knew I didn’t really need anymore books.
My personal home library is packed full of self-help books.
So I was only wandering for something to do.
During these past pandemic lock-down months, I began binge watching Castle about the mystery novelist Richard Castle who uses Detective Beckett solving homicides as his inspirational muse. It inspired me to try and write a novel.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a full time career as a writer?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to work from home?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to no longer have to be a front-line person, working with the panicked public during a pandemic, during lockdowns, wearing masks, sanitizing everything that they touch, being pressured to get jabbed with a concoction that is not properly studied nor approved, working in a daily sphere of fear?
I would just stay at home – and write – and get paid for it.
So as I wandered through Indigo/Chapters, that became my quest – to see if there was a book that could help me learn how to write a book.
I wasn’t sure if that type of book even existed, so I thought I should also probably try and find a novel to read. My library is filled with books, but no novels. In order to write a novel, I figured I’d best start reading them to get a feel for their rhythm and structure.
After about thirty minutes of browsing, mostly in the Self-Help section, I found a copy of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel – The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody.
It was an orange book with a picture of an orange tabby cat hanging on to the end of a dangling rope. “Originally created for screenwriters the Save the Cat! story structure method provides compelling tips and tricks to make your novel as riveting as a movie.”
I felt victorious as this was obviously the book I was meant to find that day.
Until – a voice from behind me broke my silent victory dance.
This was a voice from a real person too – not from one of my invisible guardians who are always quietly whispering trinkets of guidance that only I can hear; although I’m pretty sure they were involved somehow in the dialogue too.
It was an employee of the store whose voice I was hearing. She looked like somebody you would expect to find working in a bookstore – perhaps a university English Literature Major working to pay off all her student loans by working in a bookstore.
She was standing on the upper level of the store directly behind me.
This area was raised about three feet higher then the main level of the store.
I think once-upon-a-time it was the eclectic area where chairs were set up in circles so book enthusiasts could gather enthusiastically to discuss books.
It wasn’t closed off with walls – rather it was raised up with a railing along the edge to keep people from falling off of it – like a deck in your backyard.
On that level is where they now housed all of the novels.
Thousands and thousands of novels on hundreds of bookcases.
A bit too daunting for me, I was still comfortable staying in the familiar territory of self-help books on the lower level.
I was too intimidated to walk up that ramp to the world of novels that was still foreign to me.
My favourite authors are Sylvia Browne, Judy Hall, Dr. Christiane Northrop, and Evette Rose.
I didn’t even know where to start looking or who to start reading for a novel.
But now there was this woman. The expert on ALL books, standing above and behind me as I contemplated reading a book about saving a cat.
“If you are looking for something on how to write a novel”, I turned to face her, “ you will want to read On Writing by Stephen King. It is usually the required reading in any course on novel writing.”
She proceeded to tell me where it was located on that upper level, but I had frozen after I heard the name Stephen King. I quietly thanked her for her help and chose not to share the dismissing thoughts that were screaming inside my head.
I grew up knowing of Stephen King.
His book Carrie was born while I myself was an awkward, shy, foot-taller-than-everbody-else-especially-the-boys thirteen year-old young girl navigating my way through Catholic High School.
At that time, the nuns were very specific about what was not allowed to be read – or even what music could not be listened to, because it all had backward masking subliminal messaging from the devil in it.
Carrie was on the top of that list, right above Judy Blume’s Are You There God – It’s Me Margaret.
The latter book of which someone’s older sister had snuck in a copy to our classroom, that we kept hidden and secretly passed around my grade nine group of girls, sharing and giggling with shock and awe that it spoke about the unspoken world of girls’ periods. In the early 80’s, this still wasn’t something that was openly discussed – it was still a hushed topic.
So Carrie was definitely off-limits, and Stephen King became known for me as a terrifying horror writer and someone who I was always afraid of.
If anything had his name on it, I stayed away from it.
Far far away.
So now, here I was being Divinely guided by a visible, clear-speaking human to go and find his book.
This was not something I could attempt on my own, so I first located my daughter and told her of my new quest – that I was going to go and search for a book written by Stephen King, because the audible voice from behind me told me to. Her eyes popped open wide above her mask in astonishment and she bravely agreed to join me.
I actually had no idea where I was going next, for truthfully, I froze in terror after the voice mentioned his name and I blanked out and missed hearing her directions on which bookcase and shelf to find it.
Still my invisible guardians pushed me onward. Giving up and going home with just a book about saving a cat was not an option.
And so my hunt began – the prey searching for the predator.
After reading through book title after book title, on over fifty bookcases, I was about to give up when my invisible guardian voice said, “Look left.”
And there it was.
At my eye level, on a top shelf, forward facing, was a black book with a comfortable picture of a man with his feet up on his desk and a notebook on his lap, and his dog sitting under his legs. A picture of a man passionately writing in a way you would expect a top selling novelist to be writing. In a way that I could see myself writing. In the way that I want my new world to be.
There was only one copy on the shelf facing out –
Looking at me –
Calling my name –
And so the first step of learning how to become a novelist began.
On Writing is an incredible resource book and a well told story of a young man’s development into a top-selling author.
I am no longer afraid of the name Stephen King.
I am inspired by his creative brilliance and his intuitive imagination.
His style of writing is one that resonates with me.
I have downloaded Carrie, The Institute, Elevation and The Stand to my Kobo and even though I might have to skip through some of the scary parts, I am eager to learn more from this talented writer.