7 Writing Tips From Stephen King 9


what does stephen king say about writing getting publishedThese seven writing tips from Stephen King will help you write a better book, blog post, or magazine article. Learn to write from than the King of Horror Writing (not the king of horrible writing!).


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I’ve navigated oceans of praise about Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craftand indeed, it can improve your writing immensely.  He says this book was very difficult for him to write – and, truthfully, the first half was difficult for me to read! I thought it meandered, and was more of a reflection on his life than a “how to write” guide. But, I guess that’s why he called it a “memoir”, right?

Nevertheless, I’ve pulled several good writing quips and tips from it…





Stephen King’s Writing Tips – How Write a Better Book

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things about all others: read a lot and write a lot,” writes King. “Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in.”

1. Read bad writing

“One learns most clearly what not to do by reading bad prose – one novel like Asteroid Miners (or Valley of the Dolls, Flowers in the Attic, and The Bridges of Madison County, to name just a few) is worth a semester at a good writing school, even with the superstar guest lecturers thrown in,” writes King.

I think it’s also important to learn why the writing doesn’t work – not just that it doesn’t work.

2. Read good writing

“Good writing teaches the learning writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creation of believable characters, and truth-telling,” writes King. “A novel like The Grapes of Wrath [by John Steinbeck] may fill a new writer with feelings of despair and good old-fashioned jealousy – ‘I’ll never be able to write anything that good, not if I live to be a thousand’ – but such feelings can also serve as a spur, goading the writer to work harder and aim higher.”

The trick is not letting good writing scare you from writing your own books.

3. Set — and stick to — your writing schedule

“My own schedule is pretty clear-cut,” writes King. “Mornings belong to whatever is new – the current composition. Afternoons are for naps and letters. Evenings are for reading, family, Red Sox games on TV, and any revisions that just cannot wait. Basically, mornings are my prime writing time.”






To write a better book, you need to be a productive writer.

4. Improve your writing with the secret to good description

Writing Tips From Stephen King

7 Writing Tips From Stephen King

“The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary,” writes King. “I began learning my lessons in this regard by reading Chandler, Hammett, and Ross MacDonald; I gained perhaps even more respect for the power of compact, descriptive language from reading T.S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams.”

If you’re a new writer, read 7 Writing Strategies for Beginning Writers.

5. Take six weeks off – a surprising writing tip from Stephen King

“If you’ve never done it before, you’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience,” writes King. “For me, the most glaring errors I find on the re-read have to do with character motivation (related to character development but not the same).”

6. Learn to edit, revise, rewrite your own writing

“During that reading [after the six week layoff], the top part of my mind is concentrating on story and toolbox concerns: knocking out pronouns with unclear antecedents, adding clarifying phrases where they seem necessary, and of course, deleting all the adverbs I can bear to part with,” writes King.

7. Tell a coherent story

“Underneath, however, I’m asking myself the Big Questions. The biggest: Is this story coherent? And if it is, what will turn coherence into a song? What are the recurring elements? Do they entwine and make a theme? What I want most of all is resonance, something that will linger for a little while in the Constant Reader’s mind (and heart) after he or she has closed the book and put it up on the shelf.”

Resonance doesn’t just occur in fiction writing – fellow scribes, you know when a great article or nonfiction book resonates with you.

For more fiction and nonfiction writing tips, read 5 Examples of Using Your Senses in Your Writing.

What’s your favorite writing from Stephen King? Comments welcome below…


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9 thoughts on “7 Writing Tips From Stephen King

  • Laurie Post author

    I’m re-reading Stephen King’s On Writing, and have discovered a few more writing tips to share, as well as a parable 🙂 Will post soon…..

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  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your Stephen King tip, e.lee!

    Inspiring — because instead of just thinking your writing is terrible, it encourages you to make it better and to be a better writer. Love that!
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..Starting a Magazine Writing Career – How to Make Money as a Freelancer =-.

  • e.lee

    there’s a Youtube video, of Stephen King giving a talk to college students.
    He says the most magical moment for a writer is to read a book and realise’ This sucks! *I* can do better!’

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comment!

    There are some books that aren’t TOO badly-written, just like there are some websites that aren’t TOO garish or mult-colored. Those middling books and websites may contain the most tips for improving your writing, website design, etc.

    I agree that the garish or really, really poorly written books may not be the best ones to learn from. Too obvious!
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..Fear of Success for Writers – Signs of Self-Sabotage in the Writing Life =-.

  • website design

    As good a tip as it is, it is really, really hard for me to read badly-written books. To me, it’s like going to a ridiculously garish, multi-colored website with to many moving objects, except that it goes on for hundreds of pages.

  • Laurie PK

    I’m not sure what book he’s talking about, but here’s a great quip and tip from Stephen King:

    “No, it’s not a very good story – its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside.”

    Listen to your “inside voice”, fellow scribes….I love that!
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..Quips and Tips From J.K. Rowling =-.

  • Heiddi

    I love his book. He has such great advice in it perfect for beginning writers and experienced alike. Thanks for the great post.

    Heiddi’s last blog post..What have you been reading lately?

  • TheBeerLady

    It’s a tip toss-up for me. The reading good writing is such a great tip, and as you point out, not just reading it for the sheer pleasure, but also to understand WHY it’s good. At the same time, reading – and examining – bad writing can be such an education!

    TheBeerLady’s last blog post..The ritual of absinthe – La Louche