On Writing by Stephen King
I have a confession to make: I have never ever read any of Stephen King’s books. I remember making an attempt to Misery in English but I dropped it after a few pages as my English wasn’t good enough at the time. On Writing, however, was recommended by a trustworthy source for writers. I’m glad I took that advice.
Although I have pages of detailed notes from this book on my computer, what you see below somehow made its way up here. Here’s some of the highlights:
Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sail at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.
When you’re still too young to shave, optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.
Writers were blessed stenographers taking divine dictation.
In the Durham of my childhood, life wore little or any makeup.
I stood there in the doorway, casting the same shadow as always, but I couldn’t talk.
Finally I gave up and asked the guy behind the counter (the same bald, bored-looking, gray-coated guy who has, I’m convinced, sold alcohol virgins their first bottle since the dawn of commerce) what was cheap.
Silence isn’t what that part is about. It began to scream for help in the only way it knew how, through my fiction and through my monsters.
It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.
The adverb is not your friend.
Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes.
Critics who try to rise above this intellectual hardening of the arteries usually meet with limited success.
Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest.
… it’s the story undressed, standing up in nothing but its socks and undershorts.
The scariest moment is just before you start. After that things can only get better. Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates or making friends. In the end it is about enriching the lives of those who will read your work and enriching your own life as well. It’s about getting up, getting well and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy. Much of this book – perhaps too much – has been about how I learned to do it.
Much of it is about how you can do it better. The rest of it – and perhaps the best of it – is a permissionship. You can, you should and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. So drink. Drink and be filled up.’