Today I’m bringing you another instalment in my series on writing. The first and second instalments are coincidently both deceased writers, but today I’m focusing on a writer who is still actively writing. His latest book was published in 2020 (If It Bleeds) and his earliest in 1974 (Carrie), a pretty impressive and longstanding career to say the least! Whether for his literature or the many adaptations of his work it’d be a struggle to find someone that hasn’t heard of Stephen King, and he is the focus of today’s post. I hope that you enjoy!
Stephen King (born 1947) is a celebrated and extremely popular writer, with novels in multiple genres including but not limited to: horror, suspense, crime and science fiction. His career began as a teacher with the submission of short stories to newspapers in his spare time. Carrie was his first novel to be published and afforded him the chance to leave teaching and embark on a full-time writing career. His writing has been adapted for the stage, small screen and big screen, with some of his work seeing multiple adaptations. He continues to write today with his latest novel published earlier this year (2020).
“The scariest moment is always just before you start”
Applicable to anything but absolutely relevant to writing. The thought of it is often more daunting than the process of actually doing it.
“Read a lot and write a lot”
“You can only learn by doing”
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write”
Simple and straight to the point but Stephen King is a firm believer that you cannot succeed as a writer unless you practice the craft, and enrich yourself with the words of others.
“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open”
“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”
By this he means that with the first draft simply write whatever, no limitations. Editing and omitting can come afterwards in future drafts.
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs”
King’s advice here is to avoid the overuse of adverbs, allow your words to speak without additional (and often unnecessary) description.
“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference”
Whilst not a tip on writing as such, it is important to consider. King attributes a lot of his success to his wife Tabby, in fact it was her who convinced him to keep going when he was ready to give up on Carrie.
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work”
Similar to the advice above about how a successful writer is one who is always reading and writing, this is so important. Often inspiration does come once the practice of writing has began, it almost certainly won’t come if no effort is made.
“The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary”
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s”
A common theme with Stephen King’s advice is that the approach should be simple and as uncomplicated as possible. Ultimately the aim is to provide the reader with the tools to create their own images from your descriptions.
“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing”
“Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure”
Just keep trying. Perseverance is key.
When asked why he became a writer King answers in a wonderfully simple and straight to the point manner: “I was made to write stories and I love to write stories”. How inspiring a sentence that is for fellow writers. It can be as straightforward as that. King is sure that he made the right choice because “there was nothing else I was made to do” and I’m sure his legions of fans would agree. With regards finding ideas for his numerous works of literature King states that it is all about asking “what if”, that is the key question. Take any concept or small idea, ask the question and see where it takes you. All his ideas are his own creations, because he believes in “thinking up my own ideas”. This is the reason why he doesn’t accept or consider any story ideas from outside sources. As stated above King continues to write today, although his publication rate is slower than in past years. Why is this? He says because “I have a lot of things to do besides writing and that in itself is a wonderful thing but writing is still a big, important part of my life and of everyday”. Fans of his literature may long for the days of multiple publications a year, but it seems those days are definitely behind King now.
*Facts and quotes taken from StephenKing.com*
Some relevant quotes
“Reading in bed can be heaven, assuming you can get just the right amount of light on the page and aren’t prone to spilling your coffee or cognac on the sheets.”
“If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered.”
“Words have weight.”
“This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit.” – speaking about his book: On writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
“Even after a thousand pages we don’t want to leave the world the writer has made for us, or the make-believe people who live there.”
What are your thoughts on Stephen King’s tips and advice? Any points that you strongly agree/disagree with? As always I would love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for reading, I hope that you enjoyed!