When it comes to writing, Stephen King is the master.
He’s written so many well-known books over the years that he’s a household name. He’s scared the pants out of all of us at least once, but he’s also created memorable characters and stories that stay with you for a lifetime. That’s why Stephen King writing tips are like gold dust, and we’re going to share with you some of his wisdom from over the years.
Everyone’s writing process is different, and some rules work better for certain people, but if you’re stuck with your writing, consult this list and see where you can find something to inspire you. After all, Stephen King is one of the most successful writers of all time…he must be doing something right!
Great Stephen King Writing Tips
#1 Failure should keep you going.
There are many hurdles as a writer that can make you fail. You can fail to create the first draft in time for the deadline you’ve set for yourself.
Rejection letters from publishers can make you feel worthless. But every good writer has rejection letters. Stephen King himself claims to have had so many rejection letters by the time he was fourteen that he couldn’t even pin them all to his wall.
The truth is, writing is hard. If you’re not prepared for failure then there’s no chance you’re prepared for success.
Did you miss your deadline? Make a new one and reflect on how much you achieved the last time, even if you fell short of your goal.
Have you reached a hundred rejection letters? Hey, that’s an achievement in itself! Success takes time, you just have to be willing to put in the hours.
#2 Write every day if you can.
“I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book,” King claims.
We might not all have time for that every single day. If you’re typing rapid-fire you might be able to get those words completed in an hour or so. Let’s be honest, life is likely to get in the way a bit.
Unlike King, we have other jobs to attend to!
The point he’s making is that if you’re serious about writing, you need to commit to it as much as you can.
Write some on the bus to work, when you are cooking dinner. Write a few lines on your lunch break. You might not get much written, but every word counts.
If you stick to it, you’ll have a healthy sized work in progress within weeks!
#3 Read as often as you can too.
“You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot,” King says. Writing is like any skill. The more you study the craft, the more you gain in experience and knowledge.
If you want to write fantasy books then you need to get the lay of the land and see how the best writers do it.
If you’re desperate to write a romance, but you’ve never picked up a Nicholas Sparks book, how can you expect to write what people want to read?
It might not necessarily take writing manuals to get you to be a good writer, but reading is still one of the most valuable things you can do to hone your craft.
#4 Dig for ideas.
“Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”
It turns out that writers are basically archeologists, according to King himself! Ideas sometimes come to you like they’re just meant to be. However, much time and work went into leading you to a path where those ideas had space to blossom?
Keep your eyes open, find ways to get inspired by the world around you, and learn as you go along.
#5 Rewriting is crucial for learning your story.
“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.” This is the advice that John Gould gave to Stephen King during his career, and he’s stuck by it ever since.
First drafts always lack the direction that a final draft has, and it’s simply because you only truly know a story once you’ve told it. Once you have the basics, you can go back and take out any unnecessary words, sentences, paragraphs, or even full pages and chapters.
By the time you hit ‘the end’ on your first draft, you’ll already be scared of all the plot holes you’ve discovered during the writing process, but that’s okay. Nothing is perfect the first time around, but your second and third drafts can only run if your first draft learns to walk.
#6 Avoid adverbs at all costs.
“The adverb is not your friend,” according to King himself. If you’re using an adverb, consider what it really adds to a sentence.
Can it be said better with a stronger piece of dialogue, or even a stronger verb? Why use the adverb in “she snarled viciously” when the verb is already doing all the work for you?
One of the best writing tips from Stephen King is less is more. Sometimes it’s just as powerful to strip your writing back then to keep adding to it unnecessarily.
#7 Don’t get bogged down by grammar.
Yes, good grammar and spelling are important to a final draft and before publication, but what about when you’re first starting out? One of the best writing tips from Stephen King is to trust the process. Let the words flow in your first draft.
You might find a manuscript full of typos and start looking like a person who doesn’t know the difference between ‘they’re’, ‘there’ and ‘their’ but hey…that’s what editors are for, right?
#8 Believe in yourself.
“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing,” King once said.
Are you afraid of your own potential? Do you tell yourself you’re not good enough when your writing is going badly?
Cut out those negative thoughts, they’re just getting in the way. Work on your confidence and your writing will reflect the way you feel because of it.
#9 Destroy all distractions.
“There should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or video games for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall,” King says.
Think about what distracts you most. Do you love playing mobile phone games? Are you addicted to Netflix? Pinpoint the thing holding you back and lock it away where it can’t keep distracting you.
#10 Limit your TV intake.
This is possibly one of the finest writing tips from Stephen King of them all. We might think we’re opening our minds to create each time we watch a new Netflix series. We might think we’re broadening our minds by watching hours of the news, but is it true?
In reality, zoning into TV programs pauses our creative thoughts, and instead, we simply absorb what’s in front of us.
Instead of watching TV, try journaling about your day, read a book, or write something about a dream you’ve had or a conversation that took place during your day.
You never know when something in the real world might spark an idea. While it’s important to have downtime and to give our minds a break, it’s also important to give creative thoughts space to breathe.
#11 Take a deep breath and just do it.
“A radio talk-show host asked me how I wrote. My reply—’One word at a time’—seemingly left him without a reply. I think he was trying to decide whether or not I was joking. I wasn’t.”
At the end of the day, writing is all about getting words down on a page. If you can’t even do that, how do you expect to take the next steps to rewrite, edit, edit some more, and eventually get published?
It can be hard when you’re looking at a blank page to translate your thoughts into words, but if you don’t do it, you’ll never have a book to show for your time and effort.
If you found these writing tips by Stephen King useful, then why stop here? Stephen King has written his own writing Bible, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Not only is it full of tips on how to write productively and to a high standard, but it’s also a great insight into the mind of one of the best-known modern-day writers.
What writing tips from Stephen King do you love? Share in the comments below!