Stephen King Tips on Writing

On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft is a memoir by Stephen King which details the master storyteller’s journey from his humble beginnings as a struggling writer in Maine to his current status as one of the world’s most successful authors. The book offers readers an intimate window into King’s craft, exploring topics such as the importance of genre, the power of words, and how to create compelling characters and unforgettable stories.

Stephen King Tips on Writing

King also discusses his own personal struggles with writing, offering advice on how to overcome writer’s block and face the challenges of being an author. In addition, he provides valuable insights into the publishing industry, presenting invaluable tips for aspiring writers looking to make their mark.

I highlighted several passages in the book and took notes on Stephen King tips on writing [for his famous quotes, check best Stephen King’s quotes]. Among the different things Stephen recommended for beginner writers is the creation of a writing toolbox or what is called the “toolbox theory”.

” I want to suggest that to write to your best abilities, it behooves you to construct your own toolbox and then build up enough muscle so you can carry it with you. Then instead of looking at a hard job and getting discouraged, you will perhaps seize the correct tool and get immediately to work.”

This toolbox is composed of several layers:

1st layer : Vocabulary

Put you vocabulary on the top shelf  of your toolbox, and don’t make any conscious effort to improve it ( you will be doing that as you read). One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up your vocabulary looking for long words because you are may be a little bit ashamed of your short ones… Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind. If you hesitate and cogitated, you will come up with anther word but it probably wont be as good as your first one, or as close to what you really mean….Why in God’s name would you want to make things worse by choosing a word which is only cousin to the one you really wanted to use ?

2nd Layer: Grammar

Grammar, for Stephen, is not only ” a pain in the ass, it is the pole you grab to get your thoughts up on their feet and walking”.  To make a better use of grammar in your writing, avoid the use of passive voice.

” Many writers are attracted to passive verbs; I think timid writers like them for the same reason timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe. There is no troublesome action to contend with; the subject just has to close its eyes and think of England, to paraphrase Queen Victoria. I think unsure writers also feel the passive voice somehow lends their work authority, perhaps even a quality of majesty”.

Besides passive voice, adverbs are the second grammatical creators Stephen dislikes.

Like the passive voice, adverbs seem to have been taken seriously…With adverbs , the writer usually tells us he/she is afraid he/she is not expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.”

Another thing which Stephen insisted on as being integral to the act of writing besides creating a toolbox is reading. Heavy reading is sine qua non for any writer and Stephen himself stated that he reads between 70 to 80 novels a year. On the importance of reading , Stephen said:

The more fiction you read and write the more you will find your paragraphs forming on their own. And that’s what you want. When composing it’s best not to think too much where paragraphs begin and end, the trick is to let nature takes its course. If you don’t like it later on, fix it.

Reading is the creative centre of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books of course! but so are theater lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines…

The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the writing process… Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mindset) 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. The more you read the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.

In the rest of the book, Stephen provided a bunch of writing tips which I have collected for you below :

1-  “It starts with this: 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 is not a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

2-  “You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair, the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it anyway but lightly. Let me say it again: You must not come lightly to the blank page.”

3- “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others : read a lot and write a lot. There is no way around these two things that I am aware of, no shortcut. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time and the tools to write. Simple as that.”

4-  “Read a lot , write a lot  is the great commandment.”

5- “If possible there should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or video games for you to fool around with. If there is a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a wall. For any writer, but for the beginning writer in particular, it is wise to eliminate every possible distraction. If you continue to write , you will begin to filter out these distractions naturally, but at the start, it’s best to try and take care of them before you write.”

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