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The good days, the fat days, page upon page of manuscript; prosperous days, something to say…the pages mounted and I was happy. Fabulous days, the rent paid, still fifty dollars in my wallet, nothing to do all day and night but write and think of writing; ah, such sweet days, to see it grow, to worry for it, myself, my book, my words, maybe important, maybe timeless, but mine nevertheless, the indomitable Arturo Bandini, already deep into his first novel. “

From Chapter Sixteen, Ask the Dust by John Fante, originally published in 1939

A masterpiece among masterpieces, this novel is in my top-10 all-time favorites list! Available in a beautiful (and affordable) paperback edition, here.

Photo: Vintage notecard found on Flickr.


Aspiring writers love to barrage established writers with nuts-and-bolts questions: Where do you write? When do you write? How many hours do you write each day? Long hand or keyboard? Do you outline? Do you write character bios?

My favorite answer regarding plot comes from the boy pictured above who grew up to be probably the most successful novelist of all time. Yes, it’s Stephen King, and whether or not you enjoy his productions, you’ve got to admire his skill and sheer output. (For the record, I admire King as a writer and as a human being and have enjoyed many of his books — especially Thinner and Misery.)

Here’s what the King has to say about plot:

I distrust plot…because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible. A strong enough situation renders the whole question of plot moot. The most interesting situations can usually be expressed as a what-if question.

King explains that all of his novels started out as a situation that popped into his mind while showering, driving, or walking. (Such as the situation that led to the novel Cujo: What if a young mother and her son became trapped in their car by a rabid dog?) 

The most startling revelation, to me, is that King not only never plots his books, but he also never even scribbles down “a single note on a single scrap of paper.” (I have a feeling that Dickens worked the same way.)

Merci for the advice, Monsieur du Roi.

Excerpt taken from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft  — Stephen King’s wonderful book on the craft of writing.

Photo: Found on Flickr