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Selected Golden Tips From Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”

Author of horror, supernatural fiction, fantasy, science-fiction, and, not to mention, the King of Twitter, Stephen King is third highest-paid author in the world

As one of the most prolific American authors, he knows exactly how to get under readers’ skin and deliver them with the most spine-chilling stories. Even if you are not a fan of his terrifying thrillers, you must approve of his impressive agility in writing. Amongst the abundant tips he has provided for aspiring writers in his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, we’ve selected some to create this non-comprehensive list.

 

Stephen King

 

1. Remember you are writing for yourself, and then remember there will be an audience reading it.

“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”

 

“You can’t please all of the readers all of the time; you can’t please even some of the readers all of the time, but you really ought to try to please at least some of the readers some of the time.”

 

2. Avoid the passive voice.

“Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe. The timid fellow writes “The meeting will be held at seven o’clock” because that somehow says to him, ‘Put it this way and people will believe you really know. ‘Purge this quisling thought! Don’t be a muggle! Throw back your shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write ‘The meeting’s at seven.’ There, by God! Don’t you feel better?”

 

“Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.”

 

3. Find yourself a closed space, and, if that doesn’t work, find yourself an open space. Whatever you do, stay by the desk and eliminate distractions.

 “Write with the door closed, and rewrite with the door open.”

“There should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall.”

 

4. Try not to get too familiar with adverbs.

“The adverb is not your friend. Consider the sentence “He closed the door firmly.” It’s by no means a terrible sentence, but ask yourself if ‘firmly’ really has to be there. What about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before ‘He closed the door firmly’? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, then isn’t ‘firmly’ an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?”

 

5. Again, avoid adverbs. Especially after quotes.

“While to write adverbs is human, to write ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ is divine.”

 

Stephen King

Via http://bit.ly/2ty0Uvd

 

6. Forget about perfect grammar.

“Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story… to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.”

 

7. You have to read. No, seriously. READ.

“You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

“The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page.”

 

8. Develop your own style and stay with it.

 “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what the writer is doing may seem. You can’t aim a book like a cruise missile, in other words. People who decide to make a fortune writing lik John Grisham or Tom Clancy produce nothing but pale imitations, by and large, because vocabulary is not the same thing as feeling and plot is light years from the truth as it is understood by the mind and the heart.”

 

9. Don’t forget your paragraphs.

“Paragraphs are almost always as important for how they look as for what they say; they are maps of intent.”

“In fiction, the paragraph is less structured—it’s the beat instead of the actual melody. The more fiction you read and write, the more you’ll find our paragraphs forming on their own. And that’s what you want.”

 

Youtube

Via Youtube

 

10. On symbolism…

“Symbolism exists to adorn and enrich, not to create a sense of artificial profundity.”

 

11. Dig deep and develop in-depth stories with realistic renditions.

“When, during the course of an interview for The New Yorker, I told the interviewer (Mark Singer) that I believed stories are found things, like fossils in the ground, he said that he didn’t believe me. I replied that that was fine, as long as he believed that I believe it. And I do. Stories aren’t souvenir tee-shirts or Game Boys. Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all the gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same.”

 

12. Don’t let research hinder your story progression.

“If you do need to do research because parts of your story deal with things about which you know little or nothing, remember that word back. That’s where research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it. You may be entranced with what you’re learning about the flesh-eating bacteria, the sewer system of New York, or the I.Q. potential of collie pups, but your readers are probably going to care a lot more about your characters and your story.”

 

13. Writing can be a swift movement.

“In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration, which moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech. You may wonder where the plot is in all of this. The answer—my answer, anyway—is nowhere.”

 

Stephen King

Via Omaha

 

14. You only have three months.

“The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

 

15. Despite the last tip, you must remember to take your time whenever necessary and write “one word at a time.”

“A radio talk-show host asked me how I wrote. My reply—’One word at a time’—seemingly left him without a reply. I think he was trying to decide whether or not I was joking. I wasn’t. In the end, it’s always that simple. Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord Of The Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

 

16. Imagine your writing experience as a journey or an adventure.

“For me, what happens to characters as a story progresses depends solely on what I discover about them as I go along—how they grow, in other words. Sometimes they grow a little. If they grow a lot, they begin to influence the course of the story instead of the other way around.”

 

17. When you finish, always read over your writing and ask someone else to do it as well.

“Submitting stories without first reading the market is like playing darts in a dark room—you might hit the target now and then, but you don’t deserve to.”

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Inverse

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