He’s arguably the best known writer of the modern generation—Stephen King, author of over 50 books, seller of over 300 million copies, and writer of one amazing “how-to” book for success, “On Writing.”
It’s a no-frills, 284-page book manual that spends the first half acting as a memoir of King’s upbringing and the second half with his “toolbox” for writing—but it’s all necessary. Although the entire book should be read (and regularly, I believe, as an author reading it for the second time), there are a few tips that have stood out amongst the others. These tips are especially vital to an inexperienced author, and with my first novel published in December 2014, “The Charismatics,” I count myself in those numbers.
But if you don’t have time to read it right now, here’s what I found to be the best take-away:
1) “Read a lot and write a lot … reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.”
Simple as that. Stephen King encourages every serious writer to get rid of a TV and to read during any free time they have. He also states that you should read widely and in many different genres, both to absorb and emulate styles you admire, and also to become aware of ways you don’t want to write.
2) “I believe the first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no longer than three months, the length of a season. Any longer and—for me, at least—the story begins to take on an odd, foreign feel …”
3) “I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words … only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words.”
4) “In many cases when a reader sets aside a story ‘because it got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.”
5) “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
This is a particularly interesting statement to me (and many others who enjoy writing and reading sentences like “she said petulantly,” or “he sighed impatiently”), because while I do believe using a lot of adverbs can be an amateur or “lazy” way to describe something, I’ve noticed that famed author J.K. Rowling used many adverbs in her Harry Potter series—a series that Stephen King noted in the back of “On Writing” as some of his favorite books. So while King’s advice is most certainly a good rule of thumb, it is not absolute.
6) “Boredom can be a very good thing for someone in a creative jam.”
King goes on to encourage writers who are experiencing a mental block to go and do something else, because the answer to the problem will invariably come when you’re not even thinking about it.
7) “The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said.”
And finally, my personal favorite and a mantra of mine:
8) “You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair … you can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”
These are just some of the amazing tidbits to glean from King’s book, but as I mentioned before, I strongly recommend purchasing and reading the book if you are serious about being an author.
Until next time, keep writing and keep dreaming!