Stephen King on Writing

Stephen King has published 57 novels, all of them bestsellers. He has sold more than 350 million copies world wide. According to Forbes, he earns approximately $40 million per year, making him one of the richest writers in the world. He is number 6 on the Forbes list of top 50 writers, and has a net worth of $400 million.

In 2002, King temporarily abandoned writing horror novels. Instead, he wrote On Writing, a book that chronicles his rise to fame and discusses exactly what he believes it takes to become a good writer. Since then, it’s become the most popular book about writing ever written, pulling in over 1000 reviews on Amazon, selling God only knows how many copies. Check the book out here.

I’ve read On Writing from cover to cover at least three times, and each time, I saw a noticeable improvement in my writing. I am particularly fond of King’s “tool box” metaphor. The book teaches the fundamentals of the craft, which is something no writer should ignore. It also sort of rubs off on you. The first half of the book is dedicated to King’s experiences as a writer. Basically a short biography. He candidly discusses his troubles with alcohol and cocaine, as well as the incident when he was run over by a van while walking his dog. The second part is very succinct, covering every aspect of the craft of writing.

King has recently published a list of some of the habits that will help you become a great writer. He advises to write because it fulfills you. Do it for the pure joy of writing. Writing isn’t about making money. Rather, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work. Remember, you can’t please all of the writers all of the time. Do you want to crack the code for writing popular blog posts? It helps to keep a notebook and pen with you at all times. Jot down ideas you could write about. Make a special note of the ones that you believe 80% of your readers would find irresistible. Now, write about those topics and nothing else.

It’s okay to approach the act of writing with nervousness. It is also okay to experience despair. King says, “You must not come lightly to the blank page.” If you want the world to take you seriously, first you have to take yourself seriously. You have to look at your blog as not just a blog, but an opportunity to change the world. Then write as if the whole world is reading. If you are just starting off as a writer, consider cutting the plug off the end of your TV. King decided to do a test. He cut his TV time to one show per day, and invested the time reading. His creativity exploded. He went from writing 1,000 words per day to pumping out over 2,000 words per day in the same amount of time. He said, “Television may be popular, but it’s poisonous to creativity, and all truly dedicated writers need to limit their exposure to it.” If you want to be a writer, there are two things you must do: read, read, read; and, you guessed it, write, write, write.

King believes writing is a distilled art form. It is also refined thinking. A lot of books on writing tell you to write like you talk. While that’s fine for a beginner, it’s death if you ever want to be a respected writer. Yes, your writing should be conversational, but it should be the conversation you would have if you had time to think everything through and say exactly the right things. The truth is, any great piece of writing is preceded by hours and hours of thinking.

It is important for a writer to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten. Such experiences will help the writer recognize when these things creep in to his or her writing, and steer clear of them. When confronted with pathetic  writing, most people click the back button and go for something else, which is understandable. I’ve been there many times. That’s fine if you’re just a reader. If you’re a writer, on the other hand, you’re far better served by sticking around and analyzing exactly what makes the blog so pathetic. They become captivated by your words. You won’t have to beg your readers for their attention. They will follow you to the ends of the earth.

Happy writing!

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