Long before I thought about writing a novel, I read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It remains one of my favorite books, one of only three books I have reread in my life (the other two being Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote). In fact, King’s On Writing may well have been the necessary spark to ignite my writing journey. Here then, in no particular order, are 10 tips from a master storyteller. As for Tip #3, I think the seasons are longer up here in Canada!
1. On Storytelling: “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. On Adverbs: “Avoid adverbs, especially after ‘he said’ and ‘she said.'”
3. On First Drafts: “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”
4. On Research: “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”
5. On Reading: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”
6. On Revision: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
7. On Getting it Down: “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like The Lord of the Rings, the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”
8. On Grammar: “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”
9. On Style: “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”
10. On Writing: “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”
Do you have a favorite writing tip from Stephen King — or any other writer? If so, please leave a comment to share it with others. Thanks!