Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How I became a writer

by Jorn Lier Horst, Norway

There are many paths up to book publication. As many as there are writers. Exposure to literature, popularly called "reading" - and reading a lot - is probably the most useful one can do. Secondly, there are numerous books on the topic. Should I recommend one book, it must be Stephen King's memoir "On writing". It is easy to think of Stephen King in connection with bad video movies and pulp fiction. You can say what you want about The King of Horror, but there is little doubt that he is good at telling stories.

First edition cover
“On writing” is a light and charming book that provides an introduction to literature and novel writing. It gives an insight into what it means to be a writer, how one should proceed if you want to become one and what underlies: The joy of writing.

I remember the night I was starting to write on what later became my first novel. It was late autumn of 2001 and I was home in bed, finishing a Norwegian crime novel. I did`t like what I was reading. I threw the book against the wall and told my wife that I could do better myself. She told me I should go ahead in that case. Half an hour later I got up and made a start.

I was writing for two years before I finished a first draft. While I wrote, I learned that the big publishers in Norway received around 1000 debutant scripts every year, and of those there were maybe 10-12 that got through. But I completed my work and submitted the manuscript. After three weeks I received a call from the publisher that told me that they would publish the book. 

On the Norwegian morning televison show with my first novel 
I often think that writing a novel is about putting a goal and work hard to achieve it. It requires dedication and discipline. But first and foremost it's about 'the start'. I always have a plan before I start. I know what the story will be about and sets up an index related overview of what is going to happen until the solution. But again, there are as many ways to do it as it is writers.

The most important advice is however: Do not give up.


  1. I agree completely, Jørn. "On Writing" is the best book out there (among many very good ones) on what it takes and means to be a writer. In my college level mystery writing course it--along with "The Elements of Style"--were my only two "must read" books for those serious about taking up the craft.

  2. "Arse in chair" is DEFINITELY the #1 rule for a successful writer! Without that, all of the other guidelines will snap and fail like a thread across a football field.

  3. Yes, I agree. Stephen King can certainly write, and that slender book tells a serious story, personal and professional.

  4. While I have little ambition to be a writer I certainly appreciate what goes into the process. I most definitely enjoy the results.

  5. Ah, those Scandinavian crime novels, very dark, but what I like about them is that they usually depict personal struggles, the idea that we are not perfect, but flawed creatures, some good, some bad. Now to order one of your books.

  6. I have asked scores of writers when they became story tellers. Only one has given an age later than 12 years old. Some of us get hooked very early. But EvKa is right. Butt in the chair is the number 1 rule for how to do it.

  7. Butt in chair and a desire to get to "The End" are key!