Stephen King and his writing have long been viewed as the Holy Grail of writing. He has everything a writer wants. Book deals. Movies. Adoring fans. Critical acclaim. All while being principled to his vision for each book. He never seemed to waiver on what he wanted to accomplish.
That’s a writer’s dream. All the fame and fortune in the world, yet still doing what you love exactly in the manner that you love it.
King’s abundant advice to writer’s is not new. He has long been adored by fans. Young writers have oft sought him out for mentorship. His memoir-ish book On Writing has been a must-read for every young writer for over a decade. So I’m not breaking the least bit of news sharing advice from Stephen King.
I recently came across King advice revived, however. The magnificence and the poignance of the advice was spot on as always. The vessel for it, this time, was writer Jerry Jenkins. I encourage you to check out Jerry’s blog post in full, which will provide you all the color and cheekiness that both King and Jenkins offer. For our purposes, let’s visit King’s iconic 1986 article in The Writer magazine—“Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully—in Ten Minutes”–but the condensed version.
Here are King’s 12 insights into becoming a good writer with a short quote from each. I bring you Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully—in Ten Minutes by Stephen King… in three minutes.
1. Be talented
“People who are published steadily and are paid for what they are writing may be either saints or trollops, but they are clearly reaching a great many someones who want what they have. Ergo, they are communicating. Ergo, they are talented.”
2. Be neat
3. Be self-critical
“Only God gets things right the first time. Don’t be a slob.”
Only God gets things right the first time. Don’t be a slob. -Stephen KingClick To Tweet
4. Remove every extraneous word
“You want to get up on a soapbox and preach? Fine. Get one and try your local park. You want to write for money? Get to the point.”
5. Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft
“Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.”
(As an aside, I can only assume from the following quote that King would deplore this “cribbed” version of his article: “The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time.” Ouch. Now Stephen King hates me too. Get in line Mr. King, I’m in the process of dealing with a lot of other haters before you.)
6. Know the markets
“Sometimes your reading can influence the next story, and create a sale.”
7. Write to entertain
“Does this mean you can’t write “serious fiction”? It does not. Somewhere along the line pernicious critics have infested the American reading and writing public with the idea that entertaining fiction and serious ideas do not overlap.”
8. Ask yourself frequently, “Am I having fun?”
“The answer needn’t always be yes. But if it’s always no, it’s time for a new project or a new career.”
9. How to evaluate criticism
“If everyone—or even most everyone—is criticizing something different, you can safely disregard what all of them say.”
10. Observe all rules for proper submission
This one seems self-explanatory to me. No King quote needed.
11. An agent? Forget it. For now.
“You don’t need [an agent] until you’re making enough for someone to steal.”
12. If it’s bad, kill it
“When it comes to people, mercy killing is against the law. When it comes to fiction, it is the law.”
When it comes to people, mercy killing is against the law. When it comes to fiction, it is the law. -Stephen KingClick To Tweet
Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.