Many writing tips are geared toward making sure a reader stays engaged with a story. For Stephen King, keeping the writer engaged is also important. Having a solid first line for a book is a way into the story for a writer just as it is for a reader. It’s a doorway that both must fit through, so taking the time to construct a solid door is important.
That’s just one of Stephen King’s writing tips. Here are some more of his writing tips that have been developed over the years, often through a trial and error process.
#1. Avoid using a passive voice.
Being passive is equated to being timid from a reader’s standpoint. A writer needs to be courageous. They have something to say, so just say it. The passive voice is safe. Being a great writer means taking risks.
#2. Adverbs should be avoided whenever possible.
Adverbs, when used wisely, contribute to the picture being drawn through the writer’s words. Using them can also become a bad habit because they are not often needed. You’ll often see writers using an adverb after he/she said moments in dialogue. “She said passionately.” That’s fine on occasion, but an adverb is not your friend.
#3. Structure is important, but not the most important thing.
It’s important to have good grammar when writing, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. No one really speaks with perfect grammar today, so using it with your dialogue can make a story seem inauthentic. The goal of fiction is to draw people into the world you’ve created. You want the reader to feel welcomed. So focus on your grammar, but don’t obsess over it.
#4. Take time to read every day.
If you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have the time to develop the skills you’ll need to write.
#5. Write for yourself.
It’s important to tell a story that the audience is going to like. If you don’t write something that engages a reader, then you won’t sell anything as a writer. Yet if you don’t write for yourself first, you won’t actually write anything that is meaningful. Your main job is to tell a story to yourself.
#6. Stand up to fear.
The reason why many writers don’t actually write is because they’re afraid of being judged. We are all judged anyway. Whenever you go out in public, people will look at your appearance and judge you based on what they see. Sure – it’s scary to put a story of your own creation out there. People are going to criticize your work. It happens. If you stand up to those fears instead of succumbing to them, then you’ll notice a marked improvement in your writing.
#7. Shut off the television.
TV is a distraction. The same could be said of social media, video games, email, and your smartphone. If you find that something is taking you away from your writing time, then it needs to go. If shutting it off isn’t helping, then get rid of it.
#8. Stay in the present.
If your goal is to write a 120,000 word novel, starting on the first page can feel intimidating if you’re looking forward to the end of the project. It takes a lot of time to write that many words. Try to stay in the present and focus on the next word you need to write. Make that word meaningful. Then repeat. Pretty soon the story begins to write itself and you’re not worried about reaching a certain quota.
#9. Check your ego at the door.
Writers often become partial to certain characters. It’s only natural because so much time goes into the character development process. Yet sometimes a story dictates that the worst case scenario happens to that character. Instead of creating a boring ending, kill off your darling characters. If you can’t do that, then it’s likely your ego interfering with the story and that means you’re writing a bad story.
#10. Research is important, but it isn’t the most important thing.
Research belongs in the background of a story. Fiction shouldn’t read like non-fiction. It’s purpose is simple: to provide another layer of authenticity to the narrative which grabs the reader and never lets them go.
#11. Write because it makes you happy.
When you’re writing full-time, then you’re doing something that makes you happy. Many writers seek fame, friends, money, and sex. Sometimes it seems like those things are happiness, but that kind of joy is fleeting at best. Writing lets your mind be free. It’s that freedom which should make you happy.
Stephen King has sold more than 350 million books, but he was also rejected hundreds of times when he was first getting started. Through these writing tips, he learned to persevere. You can do the same, no matter where you might be in your writing career.