Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, August 25, 2006

Janette Rallison Reflects on Stephen King

As promised, we’ll try to lure other LDS writers into our Frog blog on the occasional Friday. Today’s guest is Janette Rallison (aka Sierra St. James) who is a best-selling author of a dozen books in both the LDS and national markets. Her latest novel is It’s A Mall World After All, published by Walker Books.


Several of you, I know, saw the title to this article and thought, “Gee, I didn’t know Stephen King had a reflection.” First of all, it is vampires, not horror novelists, who don’t cast reflections, and second of all, I’m not talking about that kind of reflection anyway. I am talking about reflecting on Stephen King’s writing schedule.

Stephen King writes ten pages a day. Every day. Even his birthday and Christmas. I know this because the lead article in an old issue of Writers Digest is titled “Stephen King, How to Write Ten Pages a Day.” I turned eagerly to the article because I would love to learn some magic secret that would help me write ten pages a day.

As it turned out, there were no magic secrets and no previously unknown methods in the article. The gist of it was: Make writing a priority, then sit down and do it, and don’t get up until it’s done. Which would work well for me if that pesky family of mine would stop demanding that I do things like be a wife and a mother.

Still, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about a certain statement in the article. Stephen King was talking about two kinds of authors. Those who are prolific (he himself has written 35 novels, one of which only took him a week to write), and those who write well, but write fewer than five books in their lifetime. “Which is okay,” King said, “but I always wonder two things about these folks: How long did it take them to write the books they did write, and what did they do the rest of their time? Knit afghans? Organize church bazaars? Deify plums? I’m probably being snotty here, but I’m also, believe me, honestly curious. If God gives you something you can do . . . why wouldn’t you do it?”

On one hand he’s right. If God has given us talent, then we ought to use it, ought to glorify His name with it instead of burying our talent in the sand. But King makes an assumption in his statement that I can’t agree with. He seems to think that writing is a more important way to spend one’s time than anything else. Somehow, knitting afghans or helping with church functions is less valuable than creating stories.

I, like most of us, have spent a lot of time on these so-called “lesser pursuits.” I’ve spent my time wiping noses and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I’ve helped with girls’ camp and scout functions—and Primary activities where the children made picture frames out of tongue depressors. I’ve never knitted, but I recently crocheted beads onto a dozen pair of socks to send to an orphanage in Siberia. And what’s more, I don’t regret spending my time on any of these ventures.

In this group we are mothers, wives, neighbors, visiting teachers, and all involved in all sorts of school and church work. We may very well fall into Category #2—unprolific writers. That’s okay. We have all eternity to work on our talents. Let’s never feel like our other duties—the daily acts of service we give to others—are less valuable in God’s eyes.

In some cases, being number two is not so bad at all.

For Janette’s Top Ten Reasons to Become a Writer (or not), visit her website at


At 8/25/2006 12:58 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Argh! (And other Charlie Brown expressions of frustration.) Will somebody PLEASE tell me how to make a link work? This is the second time I've tried -- and whiffed it! Sorry, folks. Janette's website is out there somewhere, I promise.

It's also about the tenth time I've tried to post a comment and failed. What's up with that?

At 8/25/2006 1:08 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I think there might be a problem on Janette's side, because I Googled her to find the website, and when I clicked on the link for her official page, it brought me to the same page that I saw when I clicked on your link.

I've noticed that when the comment thing isn't working for me, it's usually because I didn't get the verification word in exactly right.

At 8/25/2006 1:21 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I'm stung, Sariah, I really am. I expect that kind of thing from Rob, but for YOU to say (and in public) that you don't think I can identify and copy eight letters correctly...well!


At 8/25/2006 1:36 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Geez Kerry, that was a slam on myself. It in fact happened when I did the first post above. ;)

Or maybe it doesn't have anything at all to do with the confirmation letters and the Blogger site is just messed up.

At 8/25/2006 1:45 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

It happens to me too, Kerry. I think the verification thing is squirrelly and sometimes wants you to retype even when you got it right the first time. Just make sure your comment disappears from the "work box" area and that you can see it on the list of posted comments before you exit. If you type the verification thing and your comments don't show up on the list of posts, Blogger didn't accept it. Just humor it by typing in the new verification letters and voila, your comment will appear. I hope. Unless Blogger has some other problem.

Great blog, Janette. Thanks for dropping by the frog bog to share some wonderful words of wisdom.

P.S. I just tried to post and it didn't work--but I think I flubbed the letters because they were all crammed together in a way that made my eyes cross.

At 8/25/2006 2:15 PM, Blogger FHL said...

I'm sure I've read that article somewhere because the phrase "deify plums" sounds familiar. (Or maybe he culled it for his "On Writing" book.) I'm not sure that King is saying that those other things aren't important, but rather is looking for an explanation of why they didn't write more. For him, it seems to be a kind of madness (more ways than one?) that he has to write. I get the impression he'd go literally (ha!) insane if he didn't write. So, they either took a really long time to write those few books, or they were doing something else with their time instead of writing.

Sure, it must be nice to be a full-time writer, but you gotta start somewhere, right? (And support yourself while doing it.)

On a side note, the word verification thingy could use some work. It's really aggravating. Also, the site seems to be having trouble today. *gives a backwards V-sign to*

At 8/25/2006 5:12 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Yup, FHL, that whole article is pulled directly from, "On Writing." I think he is referring more to full time writers who claim it takes them years to write. But still, I know several writers who seem to think writing is more imprtant than anything.

In his book, Mr. King also points out that it took him a while to realize his family was more imprtant than his writing.

On the other hand, there are lots of writers who claim they can't find the time to write. I don't buy that. Maybe you can't write every day, but if you can't knock out a book a year, you aren't trying very hard.

And by the way, I screw up that word verication with great regularity. I thought it was just me.

At 8/27/2006 8:22 AM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

I screw up word recognition regularly as well. But, I'm still in awe over 10 pages a day. I could write 10 pages a day, but it would be the same page typed 10 times...

At 8/28/2006 3:10 AM, Blogger spankyward said...

My aunt gave me his book on tape called "On Writing" and in it he talked about his writing sceduale and said he writes 2,000 words a day which equals about ten pages. I screwed up and thought he said he wrote 10,000 words a day. So I was trying to do what he did, and was only getting about 5,000 words a day. I was getting a bit down, and desided to listen to the tapes again, then realized I made a mistake and then I felt good that I was getting 5,000.

At 8/28/2006 9:15 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

Way to go, spankyward! That's great production!

At 8/29/2006 1:22 PM, Blogger annegb said...

That could explain the inconsistency of his writing. Sometimes it's great, a lot of times not.

Although hopefully he edits.

At 5/29/2008 12:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just compare someone like Coover, or Tolstoy, or Nabokov, or Will Self to Stephen King. Poll authors around the world who they'd keep if they had to choose. So pumping out is fine, but don't look for superior wordsmithing. Actually I'm currently writing 2,000 words a day. It's my summer project. I have to do it for a month, basically a novel. I'm learning a lot by doing it, its as Glass in Salinger said, aim but no aim. It's often close to directed free writing. And, get this, it becomes easier. What I try to do is focus on visual scenes and dialogue, and I allow mistakes and I let the plot sort of lead me. It's a different approach than I usually work with where I carefully plan and revise ad nauseum. As for King, the best I've seen about him was on an old Saturday Night Live where they interviews him. He answered questions as he continued typing. *It wasn't really him. He has high points, for sure, but generally speaking it's why his books are published as pocket books rather than trade literature. The market is clear where he sits.

At 5/29/2008 1:18 AM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

I don't believe Stephen King has ever had a novel come out as a trade paperback. Or any paperback for that matter. And this is just me, but given a choice of a Tolstoy novel or king novel while trapped ona desereted island. I'd chose King every time.


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