20 Best things Young Writers Can Learn from Stephen King’s Memoir: On Writing
What is the secret behind the success of a literary baobab like Stephen King? What does it take to successfully create success in writing? In his memoir, On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft, the author who is able to bring home a whopping 17 million US dollars every year in revenue from his writing alone shares invaluable tips that can get young writers started on a sure path towards success. Below are 20 writing tips and lessons from Stephen King’s memoir on writing.
A writer reads more
books, watches less TV
The TV has a lot of junk and most of our contemporaries are full of it. For Stephen King, it is a huge distraction for young writers. Books, on the other hand, tend to spark curiosity and whet a writer’s appetite to know more. You will find that as you cultivate the culture of writing, your vocabulary, grammar skills, and creativity will improve — and faster.
2. Write to express and not to please
Say you are wondering how to write a novel in a way that won’t seem too forthright or too rude to your readers. This is a concern that plays a huge part in curtailing your imagination. Let yourself go, be truthful, be rude, and sarcastic if that’s what you want to be. Stephen King notes that owing to his writing, he was labeled homophobic, psychopathic, bigot, and murderous. He keeps on writing and even his biggest critics keep on reading.
seriously, not personally, though
It is safe to say that writing is not for the
faint-hearted. A writer’s work will always receive criticism whether the writing is good or not. A good writer should be able to take criticism positively and
always find the strength to get themselves up when they fail. Stephen King states
that “Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.”
Write for your own
The main purpose of writing, of course, is to inform or entertain your readers. Nevertheless, a good writer should begin by writing from a point of fulfillment. Begin by finding a subject or topic you are passionate about and know that your readers would want to learn about. Then go ahead and write as compellingly and as creatively as you possibly could.
Block out everything and
Writing is said to be an intimate activity. Seclude yourself in a corner or in a room, turn your phone off, shut your windows, and literally close the door to all possible distractions. It is best to create a time in your day for writing and build a ritual around that specific time. Let it be a sacred moment, a time where you explore your craft. Always enter this space with great expectations and be determined to use every minute of it to write. At times you will find less inspiration, but remember that it is in the most difficult of moments that the best works are created.
6. Face hard topics head-on
Do not procrastinate or shy away from writing
about something because it is not an easy topic. Whether it takes you hours or
days, get yourself to finish that piece or that book because as Stephen King
says, “The most important things are the hardest to say.”
7. Don’t try to be someone you’re not
Every writer has his or her own style of writing. Don’t try to write like another writer you look up to. Cultivate your own voice and learn from your mentors as opposed to copying them. You can only find your voice by applying yourself consistently to the craft.
Stick to Short Paragraphs
Keep your paragraphs short to keep the reader
hooked all the way to the end. In addition, use fewer adverbs or none at all if
possible. Stephen King in his memoir stresses the fact that adverbs are not a
9. Don’t worry too much about grammar
It goes without saying that what you are writing should be grammatically correct, but don’t be too caught up about using the right words and putting commas where they need to be. A writer is allowed to break a few grammatical laws if it serves the purpose of seducing and bringing the point home to your readers.
10. Learn how to describe
Visualize and then translate into writing. Don’t use too many words to show the reader what you mean, leave something to their imagination. Let them guess. Let them want to find out what you are about to do. This makes reading an exciting activity to the mind.
11. Give little background Info
Too much background content takes away from the reason why your reader started reading your book or piece in the first place. Only write as much as is necessary to enrich your story and quickly move on to the main subject.
12. Tell your character’s stories
Let your readers immerse themselves in the lives of the main characters in your writing. Answer the readers’ questions by writing what your main characters do, what their life is like, and their hobbies, and so on.
13. Don’t write under the influence
Some say that they do their best work when under
the influence of some drug or alcohol. This is not true and could possibly put
both you and your writing at risk.
14. Don’t be afraid to take risks
Don’t worry that your writing may seem too outrageous or too boring, just write. If it is good for you then it is good enough. Be yourself and do not write in passive voice. It is ok to be different from the rest.
15. Use your own voice
When you use your own voice your writing comes out to your readers as authentic. When you steal someone else’s voice, your readers will see right through you and dismiss what could have been a perfectly written book.
16. Writing is telepathic
Stephen King advises that the main point of writing is to get content from your head and move it into your readers’ heads. Ideas more than words are more important. Finding the best way to convey ideas in a way that readers can receive them is the secret to good writing.
17. Make writing a habit
The more you write, the more you grow. If you’re writing a novel, for instance, strive to write every day; otherwise, you will lose your plot and your ideas will start fading away. Do not stop until you finish. Consistency is key.
18. Your writing is not a joke
It doesn’t matter if you are desperate, nervous, hopeful or excited, take your writing as seriously as you would any other serious job.
19. Start and finish your draft in three months
Stephen King writes 10 pages a day which adds up
to 180,000 words in the three months he takes to draft his books. Taking too
long on a book or a draft will feel odd as too much time goes by.
20. Take a long break when you’re done
Take at least 6 weeks to rest and be away from your writing. Thereafter, you can go back with enough clarity of mind to scan, edit, make necessary cuts and single out mistakes. Despite being passionate about writing, other aspects of your life should not take a back seat. Stephen King advises that writers live a good life, eat healthy food, and marry.