First thoughts on Stephen King's writing method

Since the beginning of the year - so the past two weeks, which granted isn't much time but what the hell - I've been working on my next novel using the method of writing Stephen King describes in his book On Writing and apparently uses himself. King writes a minimum of 2000 words a day, keeps the door closed when he does, and most importantly, he writes by the seat of his pants. In other words, he all but loathes plots. He never plots his stories beforehand; instead, he starts with a what if something like this happened kind of statement, a scene or a person within that framework, and lets the story tell itself, without knowing what will happen. He uses the analogy of an archaeologist: he only discovers the story - the bones - that's hidden using brushes and other tools. He doesn't make the bones.

I myself have always been a plotter. It's as if I need to know in advance what will happen next before I can write it down - using an analogy, I need to X-ray the skeleton before I can start the digging process. Otherwise I get paralyzed by the possibility of screwing the bones up.

So, needless to say, I was terrified to give King's method a try.

January 1st, I started with a what if something like this happened statement, and a character. I knew what kind of a narrative voice I wanted to use, but decided to worry about that later. I closed the door and wrote the first 2000 words. Soon enough I realized I was on stranger tides. Sitting down to write had never felt this scary. Firstly, because I always fear I've suddenly lost the capability; and secondly, because I didn't know if there were any more bones to dig up. The story could have easily dried up overnight.

More than once I found myself thinking I'd reached a dead end in the story, and every time another bone, a solution emerged. Once I even discovered the skeleton had an entire set of tail bones I hadn't expected.

And yesterday it dawned to me that the skeleton I've been digging up for two weeks is that of a baby fossil, one that's standing under the belly of a gigantic mama fossil. The story I thought was about to end turned out to be only the premise for the actual story I should tell.

It doesn't take away the fear, though. I still find myself trying to plot the whole thing whenever I'm not writing. But since the method has solved every problem I've had so far, perhaps there's a reason to trust it after all.