Stephen King on Writing

By Bhalachandra Sahaj

Stephen King is nowadays one of the most productive writers in the western world: the amount of short stories, novels, and essays he crafts annually is difficult to count (this is not to mention everything he wrote under his pen-names). He is the true master in his genre, capable of turning mundane and comfortably familiar reality into an unsettling, disturbing decoration for his plots. To me, this is the best proof of his skill as an author.

Stephen King really inspires me; rather often I read and re-read his stories, and his essays on the writing craft. In this blog post, I collected 10 of King’s quotes that often boost me up when I am stuck with my own writing. Enjoy!

  1. 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.
  2. The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.
  3. In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.
  4. If you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.
  5. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.
  6. The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.
  7. When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.
  8. Symbolism exists to adorn and enrich, not to create an artificial sense of profundity.
  9. Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon. or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.
  10. The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.
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