King: The Month of Horror

With the recent film adaptations of Stephen King’s IT and Gerald’s Game being released in the run-up to Halloween, I’ve been getting so excited for the spooky season.

Despite being an avid reader with a keen interest in the horror genre, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve not read as many Stephen King novels as I would have liked. I’ve seen numerous adaptations of his films over the years – Secret Window, The Green Mile and The Shining just to name a few and the only books I’ve read are Carrie and On Writing. So I figured what better way to get into the Halloween spirit than to honour the king of horror himself, and embark on a Stephen King reading month throughout October!

I didn’t have any particular novel choices in mind before I started this, but I was keen to pick a few that I knew next to nothing about. My choices were also limited to those my sister already had in her bedroom (as I decided to start this challenge a few days into October). Anyway, here’s how I got on…

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon 

I decided to start the month with one of King’s shorter novels, and opted for one I’d never heard of before: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. The novel reads like a stream of consciousness; told from the perspective of young baseball fan Trisha McFarland, who becomes lost in the woods after separating from her mother and brother.

I found this novel to be quite different from my experience with Stephen King so far, and going by the final line of the blurb: ‘There’s something else in the woods – watching. Waiting…’ I expected some more supernatural elements to the story. Instead however, I found myself enjoying how realistic the story line is. Although there were no scary characters attempting to kill or abduct Trisha, King manages to tap into the primal fear of one being left utterly and entirely alone in the wilderness, having to rely on your wits and instincts in order to survive.

The woods feel noisy and claustrophobic, and despite Trisha’s bravery, King unsurprisingly still manages to build the tension and fear of the ‘not even remotely human’ thing that’s following her, which she continuously refers to as ‘it’ (sound familiar?)

At times, I forgot that Trisha is nine years old, as she is ballsy, practical and swears more than your average nine year old! My nine year old self certainly wouldn’t have been able to survive that ordeal, that’s for sure. I found it interesting how Trisha often seemed to adopt voices that mimic adults, like when she tells herself “Don’t start that.” Of course, this becomes a more regular occurrence as she starts hallucinating and engaging in imaginary conversations with her baseball idol Tom Gordon.

While it may not be the most Halloweeny of King’s works, I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and I thought that it was different to other King stories I’m already familiar with. One quote in particular which stood out for me and summed up the story nicely has to be, “There is a point at which people who are cast upon their own resources stop living and begin merely surviving.”


For my second choice, I opted for a more traditionally scary novel, which I’d heard of before but didn’t know much about. And I absolutely loved it!

Misery follows famous author Paul Sheldon, who after suffering through a car crash, wakes up a captive in obsessed fan Annie Wilkes’s house. After finding out he’s killed off her favourite character in his book, Annie forces Paul to write a new book, bringing the character back to life as he lays bed-bound.

I can just imagine how painful parts of this novel would have been for King to write, as he imagines being forced to burn his greatest work of writing to date in exchange for painkillers. And yet by the end, you feel so satisfied by the destruction of Misery’s Return. 

Paul makes several attempts in the novel to escape his room when Annie leaves, and I found myself feeling so tense during these moments that Annie was going to return any minute. King really masters the art of suspense building, particularly when Paul experiences a hint of freedom as a policeman shows up at Annie’s door. The gory scenes were so visual in my mind, I found myself wanting to squint away from the pages, and the terrifying character of Annie Wilkes is one that will continue to haunt me I’m sure!

In true King fashion, we’re left with a tense uncertainty about whether or not Annie is truly gone, as like Misery Chastain, she continues to haunt Paul’s psyche: ‘”You can’t kill the goddess. The goddess is immortal. Now I must rinse.” 

‘Salem’s Lot

I found it a bit harder to get into ‘Salem’s Lot, however this may have been due to being rundown with a cold when I started reading it! Once I did get stuck in, I enjoyed King’s take on the classic vampire/’living dead’.

The novel is told from a series of perspectives, particularly focusing on character Ben Mears, who is returning to the town Jerusalem’s Lot where he grew up. There are a few instances of residents going missing and suddenly dying, before Ben and a few others discover that they’re turning into vampires.

With so many different interpretations of vampires nowadays, I enjoyed how King’s vampires followed a more traditional form; they’re allergic to garlic, they fear sacred water and the holy cross and they can be destroyed through a stake to the heart.

Yet this doesn’t make them any less terrifying, as King of course doesn’t spare us any of the gory details: “She felt his teeth and he was biting her, sucking and biting, drawing  blood”, “Danny Glick slipped through his bedroom window and plucked the baby from his crib and sank his teeth into a neck still bruised from a mother’s blows.”

Like many other traditional and modern vampire storiesthere’s a sexual element to the vampires in ‘Salem’s Lot, and this only adds further to the disturbing nature of the novel, for example when Jimmy tells Ben “And when she was doing it, I liked it, Ben. That’s the hellish part. I actually had an erection.”

Overall, I really started to enjoy this classic vampire tale as I continued to read it, and it’s exciting to still find creatures like vampires scary.


After a busy month of reading, I finished Dreamcatcher just in time to celebrate Halloween! Dreamcatcher tells the story of four friends who have reunited for their annual hunting trip, only to find themselves caught up in an alien abduction. Known as the Ripley or byrus, the alien acts as a parasite; possessing whichever human is unlucky enough to become its victim.

When it possesses character Jonesy, it goes by the name of Mr Gray, and it’s interesting to read the perspectives from both characters, living inside the same body in Jekyll and Hyde fashion. As Jonesy still has some control, he’s able to work with his friends and the military to fight the Ripley.

Like many of King’s novels, Dreamcatcher is very bodily and grotesque, as the byrus causes its victims to produce gas and excrement which smell “something like mine-gas trapped a million years and finally let free,” and “something contaminated and dying badly.” As a reader, you find yourself scrunching up your nose in disgust!

After reading the novel’s blurb and finding out it was set in Derry, Maine, I was straight away reminded of It, especially when I knew the novel was centred around a group of friends. And sure enough, I was pleased to see that King references It when Mr Gray/Jonesy discover a plaque honouring “THOSE LOST IN THE STORM…LOVE FROM THE LOSERS CLUB,” above the chillingly red letters “PENNYWISE LIVES.”

I felt overall that Dreamcatcher was an interesting take on the alien parasite, and King really forces us to draw on the grotesque, physical aspects of horror, rather than the terror.

Final Thoughts

I think I chose a good selection of Stephen King’s novels, with The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Misery featuring more realistic scary situations, while ‘Salem’s Lot and Dreamcatcher delved into the realm of the supernatural. With some of the novels being years apart from each other, I also found it interesting to see how King’s writing has changed over the years.

All in all, I’ve really enjoyed my month of horror, and I’m certainly keen to delve into a few more Stephen King books I’ve got lying around!

Winning NaNoWriMo 2015!

So I’ve just finished taking part in National Novel Writing Month, more commonly known as NaNoWriMo, and I can proudly say that I am a 2015 winner! The challenge requires you to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November, which equates to 1,667 words a day to reach the daily target. It’s safe to say that I have NEVER written such a lengthy piece in my life – the closest thing probably being my 10, 000 word dissertation in my final year of university. NaNoWriMo was introduced to me by my friend, who has taken part in previous years before. We decided to motivate each other to hit the target, and ended up getting quite competitive! We’d often reach way over the target word count for the day after checking each other’s word counts on the NaNoWriMo site before quickly slamming out another 1000 words to beat them.

In the first few days, I was already worrying about reaching the daily word counts and the final goal of 50,000 felt unachievable and just incomprehensible to me. However, I soon found the daily ritual of writing weirdly addictive. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I would often wait around like Isaac Newton for inspiration to hit me on the head like an apple. The main thing I have learnt first-hand from taking part in NaNoWriMo is that writing should almost be treated like a 9-5 job. To quote Stephen King:

‘“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

When I first read this in On Writing I wasn’t sure that I fully agreed with King; surely all writers have to wait for some inspiration or the next grand novel idea to hit them like the apple? However, I’ve since realised that ‘waiting for inspiration’ was always just an excuse that I would give myself for not keeping up with writing. I started NaNoWriMo with just a brief novel idea, and a small amount of planning. Previously, I have always just jumped straight into the writing once I have an idea, and this usually results in an incomplete piece of fiction that I never return to. So for NaNoWriMo, I decided to take the time to plan properly, so that I wouldn’t risk the feared writer’s block! Using the forums for some ideas, I decided to use Lazette Gifford’s ‘Phase Outline’ technique which involves writing little bullet point ‘phases’ that are usually around 20 words long. In these phases, you simply outline whaNaNo-2015-Winner-Certificate-Fullt is happening in that section. When it comes to writing the phase up, you then add in all the detail and dialogue etc. so a phase that’s 20 words long, soon becomes 200-500 words and so forth. I found this to be a really effective technique for someone like me, who always gets a sudden writing block after jumping in too early and then struggles to see where the story is headed. Using this technique even led me to discover that I’d put in a red herring unknowingly, which then tied up the end of the novel perfectly!

Clearly, writing in such a quick amount of time has no doubt left me with a hefty amount of editing to do once I’m ready to face the words again, but hopefully this will all be part of the fun! It’s safe to say that NaNoWriMo has changed my ability to write for the better. Although the standard is nowhere near up to scratch yet, this challenge has flung me face-forward into writing again, and for this I am so grateful.


From Writer’s Block to Creativity Overload

For the past few years I’ve experienced a huge writer’s block; an excruciating experience that I’m sure has befallen many aspiring bloggers and writers. It started when several stories I was working on a few years ago accidentally got wiped from my laptop, and despite my sister and I trying to retrieve them, we had no luck. Although none of these stories were even close to be considered readable yet, this was still a frustrating situation which led me to become too unmotivated to begin anything new. Since then, I’ve written little bits here and there, but nothing that I’ve yet felt passionate about pursuing.

Until now. I’ve had an idea for a novel floating about in my head for a while now, but have struggled to begin writing it. After my first ever blog post the other day however, I began writing – and lo and behold, I managed to squeeze out over 1000 words of this new story. Now that may not seem like a lot to some people, but for someone who has not written more than a few sentences of fiction for years, this was a miracle. Now I thought I’d share a few ideas that may have contributed to this sudden burst of creativity, and an escape from the dreaded writer’s block!

1. Stephen King’s Novel On Writing: I finished reading this a few weeks ago, and it is amazing. King provides many useful tips for ‘good’ writing in this novel, drawing from his own feedback from editors, publishing companies and other writers. The book also acts as an autobiography of his writing life; taking us on a journey from his first short story publications in local magazines, to publishing his first novel Carrie, and finally up until the writing process of On Writing. He even includes a short first draft of fiction at the end, before showing us the editorial process with all his annotations. King also recommends that aspiring writers read The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E. B. White, (also a very useful book, but not as much of an entertaining read)! On Writing therefore was an inspirational book for me, and got me itching to get back into writing straight away. A highly recommended read.

2. Read a guilty pleasure/something fun: As a current undergraduate English Literature student, I read a wide variety of books, many of which are often a challenge, and not something that I would usually read by choice. Over the last few years, I’ve been attempting to work my way through many classic works of literature, most of which I do enjoy. I often do get a bit bogged down with reading, as I’m required to read so much for my course, that it often takes time away from reading something fun. Now that it’s the summer however, I am planning to read a few guilty pleasures, or more enjoyable books. I’m currently reading the first book in the Game of Thrones series, having been an avid fan of the television series for a few years. This is a perfect example of an enjoyable read for me, as I don’t often read many books of the fantasy genre. Sometimes therefore, it’s nice to just relax and read something pleasurable, and a bit different to previous reads, to get the creative cogs moving again.

3. When you find something you feel passionate about, take advantage of it straight away: I recently watched Murdered by My Boyfriend, and was reduced to both anger and tears. This motivated me to reach for my laptop immediately after and write a blog post, something that I’ve never done. There have been so many times when I’ve felt strongly about something and felt that I could write an entire essay on the subject, but then I let it slide and forget about it before writing anything down. By the time I remember it again, it feels too late to step back into the shoes of that moment, where emotions were at a high. It is essential therefore to write down these ideas as soon as they appear.

4. Have a good cry! This is a bit of a silly suggestion, but it weirdly helped me yesterday when I started working on my novel idea. I was feel guilty about having an unproductive day, and was generally just feeling overwhelmed by everything. I had a little cry with my dad however, complaining that I wasn’t good at anything and about how I never write anymore, and next thing I know, I’m writing! Which leads to my final point:

5. Cut yourself some slack: I’m sure many of you feel the same as I do sometimes, and you beat yourself up because you’ve not done everything you’d set out to do that day, or you’ve perhaps had months of unproductive activity. Whatever the situation, you need to just forgive yourself and stop beating yourself up about it. Instead, sometimes you need to just accept that the day hasn’t gone so well, but that there will always be inspiring days around the corner!