Four Writing Lessons from Stephen King

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I finally had the chance to read On Writing by Stephen King and I highly recommend it. King’s memoir has plenty of hilarious anecdotes from his life, and his book is also full of wisdom about the craft. I pieced together four points which stuck with me in particular:

  1. “If you write … someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.” King feels he wasted time being “ashamed” of what he wrote, and he thinks this feeling happens to many writers. Bottom line: write what you want. There will always be people out there who try to convince you to write about a different topic, but they’re not the ones writing the story. You are.
  2. “The job boils down to two things: paying attention to how the real people around you behave and then telling the truth about what you see.” Tell the truth – whether it’s through the dialogue or how you describe the characters. A writer’s job is to make his or her world feel as real as possible. The practice also helps ward away cliche.
  3. READ. King acknowledges that one of the best ways to improve one’s writing is by, well, reading. Love of writing begins with a love of reading. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. Reading the stories of others not only serves as inspiration, it helps you understand what you do and don’t like in fiction. It’s difficult to gain this objectivity when you’re drafting your own WIP.
  4. The story’s already there, and it’s the writer’s job to show it. King believes that the story already exist and what the writer needs to do is refine the story and polish it. It’s similar to a sculptor looking at a block of marble and knowing what the statue inside the marble will be. The writer reveals the story like the sculptor reveals the statue.

What books about writing have you found particularly helpful? Do you agree or disagree with what King says?

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8 thoughts on “Four Writing Lessons from Stephen King

  1. I actually just finished his book a few weeks ago. And yes, I do agree with what he said. It was all helpful advice that I truly take to heart when I’m feeling down about my writing. I have used other books for writing advice, in particular, the “How to Write Great Fiction” series has been extremely helpful.

    1. I like how that series breaks down specific aspects of storytelling; I should check it out. And yep, I love how writing books provide as much as advice as they do general motivation to keep going.

  2. I’ve been thinking about reading that book for a while now. The advice about reading is really important maybe 10 out of 10 published writers will say the same thing. Thanks for the article, I’ll be sure to get book once in for all! =)

  3. I have read the book 3 times. I had to buy the it 2 times, I moved and couldn’t find it a few years later. It is well worth reading. My favorite part? READ READ READ, WRITE WRITE WRITE…Although, I haven’t watched a Stephen King movie all the way through since “The Shining” he is a GREAT writer. I tried the movie where the house keeps rebuilding itself and can only get through Part 1, and the “IT”, I believe it was called. His story telling baffles me, I am so impressed, BUT it also scares the hell out of me. LOL I know……I literally couldn’t sleep after beginning part two of when the team goes in the house.

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