There are probably a number of books I could quote from if I really put my mind to it. However, this is the one that is foremost in my mind at the moment. 'Kill your darlings' has become my watchword over the last two years while I've been doing my MA. Every time I pick up my pen to edit some flowery phrase, I have to channel my inner Stephen King and be ruthless, hacking away at paragraphs I spent hours trying to construct, all in the name of improving my narrative.
I've read a couple of King's books - horror is not really my 'thing' - and have his latest ones on my 'to read' pile, as according to my husband, they are more thriller than horror, so I'm keen to try them, but King isn't an author whose books I read regularly. Therefore, when I picked this up as it had been recommended by a fellow student, I was a little sceptical to say the least. However, I couldn't have been more wrong. Of all the books on writing I've read (and there have been a LOT over the last two years), this has been the single most inspirational. I don't often quote from it - except the line above - but in terms of altering my mindset, it's been the biggest influence on how I approach my own writing. This is the one that's got me through the times when I haven't wanted to write, when I've wondered if I could write, when I've asked myself if it's worth persevering. This is the one I come back to and keep in the back of my mind when I'm working.
I'm currently finalising the commentary for my dissertation and making notes for the next round of editing for the short story I've written for it, with notes sellotaped to the shelf in front of my desk reminding me of what needs to be done. This book is on that shelf as a visual prompt to remember King's advice.
The thing is, even when King is telling you to be brutal when editing, just the phrasing he uses shows that he 'gets it'. He understands how heartbreaking it is to throw away phrases and paragraphs you have agonised over, how closely you as a writer are entwined with the work you create. By calling your words, 'your darlings' he marks himself out as one of us. My husband thinks I'm crackers when I talk about my characters as though they are real people, when I say that they sometimes start to write themselves and argue with me about what they are like and how I am writing them. He says it sounds pretentious when I say it takes me some time to come out of the fictional world I'm creating and back into the real world. But reading this book it's clear that I am not alone in feeling like this; King's love for what he does shines through every page, even when he's being realistic about the difficulties of being a writer.
All that said, this isn't just a book for writers. It's an interesting mix of biography and advice and even if you're not a fan of his books, it's a brilliant read!