Stephen King’s writing advice | virtual book

Stephen King's writing advice

#notes #writing Mentioned in On Writing (2000)

King’s advice is mostly for fiction, but some of it applies to non-fiction, too.

big picture

Read a lot. Four hours per day. Take one day off per week, if you must.

Write a lot. The same number of pages every day. Don’t stop until you’re done, even on slow days.

technical stuff

Don’t describe too much. Depict a scene with a few, vivid details. Let the reader’s imagination dictate what characters look like. Let context tell the reader how characters are acting. Avoid adverbs like the plague.

Use simple verbs. Use “said” for dialogue attribution.

Work hard on your dialogue. Make it as true as possible.

Learn grammar. Grow your vocabulary.

writing process

Don’t come up with the plot of your story,

discover it

On Writing (2000)

A Memoir of the Craft

by Stephen King

#reviews #books #memoir #nonfiction #writing Mentioned in what I'm doing now, where do ideas come from?, where do ideas come from? #2, Stephen King's writing advice, what I'm doing now

Half memoir, half advice for aspiring fiction writers. Both good.

I enjoy and mostly trust his writing advice.

This is yet another book that should be made virtual.

It consists of three distinct parts: a memoir of King’s life; advice for fiction writers; and a vignette about King’s near-death experience. (Really, it consists of two different types of writing: memoir and practical advice.) King claims that he included the memoir to contextualize his fiction, but I don’t buy it. I suspect he set out to write this book without a coherent vision for it. In fact, that’s how he usually writes!

I am glad he wrote all three parts. And they don’t go terribly together. But they’d go better with many other things, too, including things written by other people.

The simplest way to make this book virtual is to publish it digitally as three separate pieces that readers can choose to consume as they see fit. This is already an improvement. Aspiring writers could jump directly to the second piece – the one that is actually King’s thoughts “on writing” – and King’s fans could hear about their beloved author’s background and personal life without having to hear his opinions on grammar and diction.

Each of the three pieces could be divided into smaller chunks. The piece about writing, for example, could be broken down into King’s thoughts on dialogue, his thoughts on grammar, on character depiction, plot design, etc. The book is already organized into chapters, but they cannot be consumed independently of the book. If the chapters were designed to exist independently, they could be easily linked to by other works: books, articles, websites, videos, etc. King’s book would be only one of many pieces that contained his memoirs and his thoughts on writing.

. Start with an interesting situation. Put your character in it and see how they react.

After you finish your first draft, put it away. Work on other things for some time. Resist the temptation to go back and see if that inspired passage really is brilliant. Or if that other chunk needs work. Wait.

This is a fertile time to work on something else, a short story, an article, something unrelated.

After a few weeks, when you’re ready to write a second draft, take the first draft out of the drawer. Wielding a pen and the critical distance you developed by waiting, go to work. Read the whole thing in the fewest possible sessions, marking the draft with notes of the things that must change.

The whole process should take three or four drafts. The final one should be more compact, not longer than the first one.

Write for your Ideal Reader: a single person (or persona), whose tastes you aim to please. Get feedback on your draft from a few, trusted people. Listen to them, but also listen to your gut.