Writing Advice From Stephen King

Stephen King, love him or hate him, is one of the most popular authors of our modern age. His enormous success is a combination of talent, skill, hard work, and a little luck thrown in. Whether you have read all of his books or even if you think that no one should read his books, there are two reasons why every author should take writing lessons from him.
First, he is popular. For whatever reason, King has connected with as wide of an audience as almost any other modern author. What he is saying and how he is saying it resonates with tens of millions of people across the world. How does he do that?

Secondly, he is prolific. With more than 40 books to his name, King is one of the fastest novelists to write in this era (Quick: who has written more published works than any other author? Answer). What is the secret to the volume that King has been able to consistently produce for years?

King wrote a memoir on writing called, appropriately enough, 

The personal story of his years-long “overnight” success is contained in the first section of the book, and the rest of the book is filled with tools, methods, and advice for writers. Here are the best gems from the book that any author can learn from:

  • “I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.” (50)
  • Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. (57)
  • Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around. (101)
  • One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. (117)
  • Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful. (118)
  • Verbs come in two types, active and passive. With an active verb, the subject of the sentence is doing something. With a passive verb, something is being done to the subject fo the sentence. The subject is just letting it happen. You should avoid the passive tense. (122)
  • I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. (127)
  • When composing it’s best not to think too much about where paragraphs begin and end; the trick is to let nature take its course. If you don’t like it later on, fix it then. (132)
  • If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. (145) [He suggests reading 4-6 hours a day]
  • If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. (147)
  • Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. (147)
Elsewhere, King gives practical advice on the type of space you should write in, how many pages to aim for per day, the best way to attribute dialogue, and much more.  is chock full of useful advice, as you can see, and if you are in a rut it is one of the best books you can pick up and read.