As an avid writer, some of the books I love to read are writing advice books. Some of my favorites are LaPlante's The Making of a Story and Donald Maas's Writing the Breakout Novel. Recently I was in my local bookstore and spotted Stephen King's On Writing. Though I'm no fan of King, I figured that his advice would be useful to me, considering his incredible success.
I went into the book expecting the usual stuff about how to structure a plot, how dialogue works, etc. I was pleasantly surprised to find his style conversational and his advice encouraging, a striking contrast to some of the very angry and stern-sounding writing books I've read (Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages, I'm looking at you).
That is, until I got to the section of the book titled On Writing, which contains the following quote: "… let me repeat my basic premise: if you're a bad writer, no one can help you become a good one. If you're a good one and want to be great… fuhgeddaboudit."
At first I was sure I had to be reading the quote wrong, somehow. But no. He expresses this same sentiment multiple times. Earlier in the same section, he states, "… it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer…"
Now, in a sense, I get what he is saying here. Some people just lack the capacity to be great (or even good) writers. Similarly, because of my body type, I lack the capacity to be a football player. But this idea that it is just impossible for people to improve beyond their current ability seems insane to me. I have known people who showed no musical talent the first time picking up an instrument, but after just a few months of practice unlocked something within themselves and improved in great measure.
Worst of all, King doesn't really bother to explain why he believes his theory to be true. I did a couple google searches to see if he had defended his point anywhere, but came up empty. What's up with this dour worldview? Is he just a cynic and a pessimist? Thoughts?
(Apologies for the length of this post. If you got this far without skipping, thanks for reading! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.)
Source: reddit post