This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
There was a third person joining Jenny Oliver and her husband on a recent Italian holiday: Stephen King. And he totally changed her life. The Little Christmas Kitchen author joins us now to explain.
The title of this piece made nearly every book I’ve ever read skim through my head like a rolodex. There were standout childhood favourites like The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton – for the huge impact it had on my overactive imagination – and Jenny’s Adventure by Molly Brett – predominantly because it had my name in the title! There are so many books that I’ve read as an adult that I haven’t been able to put down – Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholics. I adore an eclectic bunch of titles, they’ve enriched my life but haven’t quite changed it.
It occurred to me then that the book that did change my life was one I read on the same holiday that I wrote The Parisian Christmas Bake Off. I’d written other books that languish still under my bed – they have a beginning but no middle or a conflict but no clear resolution, characters that made me laugh but no real journey or arc. I’d read loads of writing books in the past – mainly screenplay ones by Syd Field and Blake Snyder – and found them fascinating but couldn’t quite align the advice on the page to what I was doing. It was like I could see it but I couldn’t quite grasp it. Then I read Stephen King’s On Writing (A Memoir of the Craft). And I think he changed my life.
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The book’s not mine, it’s my husband’s. I was reading something not that great while he was earmarking sections of this book, nodding as he turned pages, laughing, agreeing, Googling references.‘You’ve got to read this.’ He said, waving his tatty, dog eared paperback at me as we stood at Florence train station.
‘No thanks.’ I shook my head stubbornly (I’m very bad at being told what to do!). ‘I don’t really like Stephen King.’
‘Just read it.’ He said with a sigh, chucking it at me with a shake of his head.
My book was boring, there was nothing else to read, and so while he was snoozing on the train I surreptitiously started to read On Writing and I don’t think I stopped until we pulled up in Viareggio (a lovely Italian holiday town I’d highly recommend). For me, On Writing was the kind of book that made you want to block out the world and just be inside it. I didn’t want to sightsee, I wanted to be on the sun-lounger reading, reading, reading. When I got to a page that my husband had turned the corner over I’d hold it up and ask why, then we’d discuss. King became the third person on our holiday.
The man’s a genius (King, not hubby.) His advice is frank and personal, the chapters are short (this appeals to me!), there’s no new language invented to describe his methods like so many similar books and his wisdom is backed by his own success.
I’d recommend the book to any writer of popular fiction. In fact any writer full stop. What made it stand out for me was that it cuts through all the crap and goes straight to the heart of not how to write, but how to entice a reader.
It’s gold dust.
Put it on your Christmas list, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
The Little Christmas Kitchen by Jenny Oliver is out now.