Learning from the Masters ~ Stephen King

Photo by Evan Agostini
2018 PEN Literary Gala, New York,
22 May 2018

So many people around the world are fans of Stephen King’s writing. With over 90 books published and over 80 movies made, it is no wonder that he has created such an iconic name for himself. But what I find most fascinating about Stephen King is his perspective on writing and his ability to write so deeply.

I’ve put together some of the research and comments from Stephen King that relate to his writing career. Later on, I share some of his writing tips that you can try in your writing!

Let’s get started!

“… stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”

On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft

His Writing Life

Stephen King became a creator of stories in his youth. It wasn’t until 1967, a year after he graduated high school, that he sold his first professional short story, The Glass Floor, to Startling Mystery Stories.

He continued selling his short stories to magazines until 1973 when Doubleday & Co. agreed to publish his first novel, Carrie. Although this was not the first full length novel that he wrote, Carrie gave him the ability to jumpstart his novel career.

He moved around quite a bit after that but was constantly pushing out new novels, including some of reader’s favorites: The Stand, The Shining, and The Dead Zone.

Stephen King continues to write multiple books and short stories every year and just came out with another title! Check out If It Bleeds on Amazon. I’m hoping to read this one soon! I love his collections of short stories.

Tips for Writers

Stephen King’s biggest tip for people who want to be writers is to READ A LOT AND WRITE A LOT. Let’s first dissect why we need to read a lot.

When writers are constantly reading, they are being exposed to the good writing and the bad writing. Each can be a confidence boost if you know you can do better than what you just read, or if you know you can do as well as what you read. Reading also exposes the writer to style, good narration and character development, and how to tell the truth. Writers will see what they like and dislike and that will begin to creep into their own writing.

Writing a lot depends on each individual. Stephen King often writes in the morning, but tells of others spending exactly two and a half hours writing each day. Some people work well with word counts, time limits, or page numbers. Stephen King shoots for 10 pages a day, 2000 words. He says that only under dire circumstances does he stop before he reaches that goal.

“Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind — they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale’s narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers that is the smooch of death.”

On Writing – a memoir of the craft

The next big thing Stephen King recommends for writers, is a DEDICATED WRITING SPACE. What you really need in this space is a door that you can shut when you mean business. When it is time to walk into that room, your goal for the day should be set in place.

It is important to start your goal off small (he compares it to exercising). It is impossible to jump out of bed one morning and go run a marathon, so why should you expect to write a novel right away? His recommendation is 1000 words a day and 1 day off a week.

In your writing space, make sure to REDUCE as many DISTRACTIONS as possible. The point of the writing space is so that you will write, not check your phone, listen to music, or stare out the window at the neighbors. As you become more practiced, these might naturally become less distracting.

Lastly, set a SCHEDULE. This will help you to hold yourself accountable and train your mind. You will eventually be able to walk in there and fire up the part of your brain that is bursting with stories and characters to write about.

“Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. Anything at all… as long as you tell the truth.”

On writing – a memoir of the craft

Read More!

I would recommend reading his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft for his voice and more analysis of his opinions regarding writing. He goes more into depth on different aspects of storytelling, creating, and editing a book. It was just too much for me to shrink down into this post!

Buy it on Amazon!

If you are looking for even more information about Stephen King’s library and his life, check out his website! (www.stephenking.com)

I really hope you enjoyed this post about Stephen King’s writing career and his tips for writing. Try out some of these tips and tricks to see if they make a difference in your writing life!

Happy writing and happy reading!

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