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5 Essential Writing Tips from Stephen King

It takes a very specific type of recluse to have no idea who Stephen King is. From Pet Semetary, Carrie, The Shining, Stand by Me, It, and Misery to Billy Summers, If It Bleeds, and so many more best-sellers under King’s belt, it’s safe to say that his thoughts on writing are highly valuable for authors. In addition to his 65 novels and over 200 short stories, SK has published 5 nonfiction books, including the coveted On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. This 2000 memoir is revered by countless experts as it carries King’s advice, experiences, and thoughts on writing to share with authors looking to hone their craft. Stephen King stands today as the only writer to have over 30 books become number one best-sellers acts to add to the mountain of proof that this man’s advice is elite. We read On Writing and took notes on some of King’s most shared advice. Here are 5 to keep in mind every time you settle at your keyboard.

1. Skip the adverbs.

It's no secret that Stephen King is no fan of flowery writing. His advice usually lends itself toward minimalism, and this piece is no exception. King likens adverbs to dandelions. He extends the analogy to say that, if you fail to remove dandelions from your yard, they will soon be littered all over, appearing as "the weeds they really are." While we love this advice, we still suggest that, as with any advice on your craft, you take it with a grain of salt. If you love adverbs (like us), maybe use this perspective to see where you can remove them to enhance your work and leave a few dandelions, rather than littering your entire yard with weeds.

2. Don't fixate on grammar.

“Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story… to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.” - SK

But…what if you're a perfectionist with ADHD (psst, like your friend writing this blog post)? These haggard eyes have seen what they say in forums and Facebook writing groups! Many of us are terrified to end a sentence with a preposition, even if it makes more sense than not. That said, this bit of wisdom from Stephen King is more than enough to inspire us to check our perfectionism and focus on telling the story.

3. If you're not reading (a lot), you're doing it wrong.

If only it were so easy! Stephen King, known for writing incredibly immersive and bone-chilling stories, has never claimed to be gentle or merciful. Our first excuse here is, while we love to read, it's hard to find the time. King's response? He tells us, "If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write." And we have to agree. Exposure to art inspires art. Reading allows us to see what we like and what we don't, how to better understand our audience, and so much more.

4. Write for yourself, first. Then, worry about the audience.

Phew, we have to admit, this is a pretty hot take from the man who is arguably the most famous writer alive. Most writing courses and blogs will say to always consider the audience when you write, but SK says, well, f*ck 'em. He doesn’t say to ignore the audience entirely, though, just to write in your own style with your vision as you get the words on the page, and then consider the audience when it comes time to edit. What do you guys think about this one? Some writers are always subconsciously editing as they write in the interest of the audience, i.e., focusing on grammar, ensuring the genre tropes are met, etc. It may be a bit of a process to write more intuitively, since you’ve been training yourself to consider the audience, but before you make any drastic changes wait until the story is finished.

5. Failure is fuel.

We love when influential creators share their failure stories. Lisa Kudrow was fired from Frasier. Walt Disney was told a mouse would never work. Steven Spielberg got rejected from film school three times. King says,"It's not failure, it's unfinished success." And that, friends, is our new mantra. We implore you to create a voice in your mind that applies King’s message on failure and use it in all aspects of your life.


What do you think about King's advice? How will you apply it to your process? Let us know in the comments!

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