When I scan my bookshelves, I imagine one day my books will be there highlighting my name on them. When I see bookstores, I imagine my books will be there to be sold. When I see someone reading any book, I imagine one day my books will also be read by millions of people across the world. If your imagination also resonates with mine then you are also fascinated by writers and want to become one. However, it’s not easy at all, because writing is a craft. You have to give it your 100% effort to become a great writer. I would like to thank best selling author Stephen King who authored the book ‘Stephen King On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft’ where he talks about his journey as a writer and many invaluable tips for aspiring good writers.
Before we dive in crucial tips on writing from the book I would like to talk a little bit about Stephen King for those who are less informed about him. King is among the world’s best-selling authors who authors one or two novels a year for over twenty-five years, bringing his grand total of novels, short stories, screenplays, and even comic books to over forty. He published his first book, Carrie in 1974.
Stephen King’s interest in writing grew when he was 6-7 years old. He was suffering from some throat disease and it was so intense that he had to spend his years 1953 and 1854 lying on the table, in other words resting. In this time he did not just curse himself but read approximately six tons of books and most of them were novels. That is when he imitated some of the writers’ stories and his journey of writing started.
Since it takes time, patience and consistency in getting writers’ works published. King’s writings (short stories) would publish here and there in some magazines or newspapers. He would also run a newspaper when he was in school. However, the first novel that won him huge recognition was Carrie.
Here are the tips from Stephen King on writing that you and I can use to become a great writer.
Read more, write more
King says in this book that those who want to become a good writer should do two things more- read and write. “There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year” King writes in the book.
Writing is not a hobby that you do for one or two hours every day but a full-time job that takes dedication and consistency. Stephen would write 5-6 hours and carry a book wherever he goes. Read even while are having a meal. You should first give up on TV. I know it’s hard but you have no other option.
Isolate yourself while writing
Since writing is a form of expressing imagination on a paper you have to isolate yourself in a room where you have nothing to disturb such as TV, phone or another disturbance. King writes in the book that writing a first draft is ‘completely raw’ the thing that he likes to do with the door shut.
Get your first draft rest
Once you are done with writing your first draft get it to rest for some time. Give it so much rest that you forget most of the parts from it. King suggests to forget the draft for six weeks after you are done writing, so you can have a clear mind to spot any glaring holes in the plot or character development.
According to King, the first draft of a book should not take more than three months. While talking about his writing targets, King writes 10 pages a day. In the span of three-month that amounts to around 180,000 words. Which is enough for a healthy book.
Kill your darling (Oh! Read to know which one)
Once you have taken enough break after your first draft it comes to revising, editing and re-working on your draft. If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not sound great or you feel like removing or changing it then do it. Be harsh while re-working on your draft. As King advises, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
Analyse people around you for your story characters:
Those who want to be a great writer should analyse people around them. It will help them to make a character for the story they are working. It is all about building characters in fiction. The job boils down to paying attention to how the real people around you behave and then telling the truth about what you see.
Don’t dress up your vocabulary
Most of the people think that big and rarely used words make them appear great writer. However, it is not the case. Because if you dress up your vocabulary in your story the chances that your readers will lose interest in your story, or the story will not convey what you really want to. King writes that this is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The basic rule of vocabulary is to use the first word that comes to your mind if it is appropriate and sounds good.
Don’t use passive voice
Oh, God! The world is full of passive voice sentences. ‘The meeting will be held at 5 in the evening’. The chicken was eaten by the butchers’. All these passive sentences may sound great. But, King highly suggests not to use passive voice if you have an option to use active voice. Using the passive voice is the biggest indicator of fear.
Be great at the description
Stephen says in this book that description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s. The description should cause what King says ‘prickle with recognition to the reader’s mind. However, while being descriptive don’t go so deep into it that readers get bored. You have to keep the ball rolling. So be descriptive but don’t go deep into it as well. Maintain the interest of readers.
Learn to accept rejection
Remember your books will not get published just by sending your manuscript to one publisher. You may face rejections more than 100 times. That is why you should be patient and determined towards your goals. You learn and make corrections along the way of getting your work published.
Stephen King received so many rejection letters that King collected the accompanying notes on a spike in his bedroom. It was, finally, 1974 when his first book Carrie got published with a print run of 30,000 copies. When the paperback version was released a year later, it sold over a million copies in 12 months.
Stephen King also explains how to get your book published through talking to agents and publishers in the book. This book is full of suggestions and tips from writing great books to getting them published.
I loved reading this book because it is not an academic book but a book where the writer explained many of his writing anecdotes as a writer while giving writing hacks for becoming a good writer. I would highly suggest you read this book as soon as possible if you want to become a great writer.