A.S. King: Her Lecture for Writers, By a Writer

A.S. King's lecture provided aspiring writers with many tips and tricks to succeed. (FABIO VIA FLICKR)

A.S. King's lecture provided aspiring writers with many tips and tricks to succeed. (FABIO VIA FLICKR)

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By ZOE SINKAUS
Contributing Writer

Whether or not you’re a fan of author A.S. King, her lecture on October 2nd was something every aspiring writer should have attended. Regarded as one of the leading voices in young adult literature, King is known for her witty novels that are often strange and throw you in a loop of emotions. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t have the chance to spend a few hours with King because I’m here to describe every detail about King’s lecture!

King opened the lecture with an overview of her experience as a writer. As a kid, King wasn’t fond of school and struggled making friends. This was especially apparent when King was asked to write an essay about her life. Instead of writing in first person about herself, King decided to write the essay as a can of succotash. It’s within this story that King describes how you can bring reality to inanimate objects, and describe yourself through other people and things. Of course King wasn’t really describing the life of a can of succotash, she was actually describing her life. But, it was easier and more creative for King to depict her life through a can of succotash.

After learning a little bit about King’s past, she jumped into detailing techniques and processes she uses to make her novels so compelling. First, King recommends keeping a table of contents when writing a book. Use different colored highlighters to categorize chapters based on tense and narrators. This organization technique will especially be useful when you start revising.

Then, King discussed three techniques she uses to move the plot along. These techniques are better known as, ‘Why’d You Do That’, ‘Simultaneous Plotgasm’, and ‘Wait…What’. The ‘Why’d You Do That’ technique is when a character says or does something completely strange in relation to their characteristics. This action should make readers really want to say, “Why’d you do that?” King used her book “Please Ignore Vera Dietz” as an example for this technique since the protagonist Vera Dietz seems to be a completely stable and intelligent girl, yet she is known to keep a bottle of vodka under her carseat. Unknowingly to readers, the notion that Vera keeps a bottle of vodka under her carseat is relevant to the plot unfolding.

‘The Simultaneous Plotgasm’ is the technique of revealing a secret that unfolds the plot. While King didn’t go into too much detail about this technique, she did say it was used in her book “Everybody Sees the Ants”. Therefore, if you’ve read the book, you most likely understand what King was talking about.

Finally, the ‘Wait…What’ technique is when something completely unexpected happens that brings the book together. This event should tie the whole plot together. In other words, the unexpected event should bring clarity to the rest of the book.

So, what are some tips for making sure you write productively? Well, King suggests keeping a note file while you’re writing. This note file should contain everything about your characters and plot. Also, you should only read your note file when you’re ready to revise. It’s also important that you do other things while you’re writing. Even though writer’s block is eventually inevitable, keeping yourself busy with other hobbies will help keep writer’s block away. Lastly, King stated maintaining a daily word count will ensure productivity. If for some reason you can’t meet your daily word count, you should at least write something.

Once you’ve written your first draft, you should start revising by cutting 20-25 percent of your book. Then, polish your book by utilizing different colors to categorize things you need to edit. Finally, you should cut about 10 percent of your book in your last revision. But, how do you know you’re done revising? King stated, “You’re done revising when you hate the book thoroughly.”

It took King 15 years, eight novels, and approximately 500 rejection letters to get published. King stated,“You write the best book you can and then you write another one. And then you write another one.” After all, that’s what King continues to do. As for those first eight novels that never got published? King keeps them in her attic.