Key to Prolofic 1: The Secret Misery
‘I’m churning out novels like Beat poetry’–Brooklyn Baby, Lana Del ReyHave you ever wondered how some writers can churn out so many novels in a year and still convince you that they are human? I’m not talking about James Patterson, guy dosen’t write his books, I’m talking about guy’s like Stephen King. In 1987, Stephen King published four books in ten months, these books were: It (technically not 1987, but pretty damn close), The Tommyknockers, The Eyes of the Dragon, and Misery. There are only 2 books in that group that I really consider great and that would be It and Misery, the later of the which I am currently reading. While Steve din’t write these books all that quickly, that’s still an incredible output for any author (now if we could just get George to push out the rest of the Ice and Fire books that fast). Anyhow, the topic of this post came to be because Misery is by far one of King’s best novels as I see it, truly enthralling, thrilling, and smart and what is more: like It and Joyland, this book is deeply personal to King in that, King almost reveals the trials and tribulations of a writer in a horrifying atmosphere as Paul Sheldon is forced to survive the wrath of Annie Wilkes who rescued and kidnapped him and he still hasn’t been found after almost three months. Annie forces Paul to write a new novel in his bestselling Misery series, in the latest (and final) book of which, the main character, Misery Chastain, dies: Annie is not happy about that. So, as Paul proceeds with writing Misery’s Return just for Annie, we see him struggle to survive Annie’s outbursts of rage and tough love as well and the pain that comes with long periods of agony from Novril withdrawal (Novril is a made-up drug by King (so don’t go looking for it you young folks looking to get stoned), a pain reliever medication that Paul becomes addicted to, so addicted that he escapes his room after Annie leaves him for over 72 hours without medication and risks getting caught by her to get a little fix). This book is definitely a King classic, but it’s just so true, and I suggest that every writer read it at least once, if not just for the sheer narrative power of King, do it for the writing juice. Anyhow, this post came to mind as we see Paul dive in and out of Misery’s Return, which to him is an escape from the Hell that he is living through, an he slowly goes from writing just five pages a day to twelve, and while that may not sound like a lot when you’re considering manuscript pages, that’s still a great output when you’ve been roadblocked for so long, but what I found so powerful about this is that King is giving us a look into how he became a prolific writer. Many of us doubtless write on our computers, and the bad thing about computers is that they have internet and they’re just distracting even if you turn off the internet because it’s just so easy to start making boxes on your desktop. Paul Sheldon lived in the generation before computers and had to write on a typewriter, so no such thing existed, and this means that it is just Paul and the text: the author and the story, the parent and the child, the bed and the man. This is the secret, this is the key. When you sit down to write, you are about to spill your guts on the page, you’re about to allow your heart to be bled onto the page for others to read at some point, but as pointed out by King in both Misery and On Writing (another book I highly recommend), you have to write with the door closed. This means, you need to get all that crap off your desk, turn off the internet, open word or whatever you use to write, and just do that: write. Simply this and only this. If you have a laptop, even better: go outside, make sure that you have terrible internet connection, so terrible that you wouldn’t want to go on the internet either way, and just write. Sure you can bring your iPod or whatever, but only for music, like maybe you should invest in the old-old iPod that was literally just a music device and nothing more: no distractions. Just you and the text. What is more, write in the simplest font: courier new or Times New Roman. Don’t write in Gothic, Garamond, Georgia, just write in something simple, something non-distracting that would make you stop writing to change it or something, just you and the text. Once you learn this secret, once you write with the door closed alone, set your goals, and just write, you’ll learn to churn out novels like King and Beat poetry.