Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a huge Stephen King fan. And why shouldn’t I be? Not only has the man pumped out an incredible amount of fiction, It ain’t half bad. The Stand, It, Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile, to name a few—all great stories, with memorable and alive characters. This is a guy—alongside other great novelists—to take writing seriously.
His writing style is perfect for a good page turner, cutting out all the crappy, pretentious, fluffy stuff, and instead focusing on the driving forward of the story at play. Being a loyal Stephen King reader, I feel his books have a lot to teach about the craft of writing. First among all his lessons, as stated in the title, is to…
Take Writing Seriously!
About this he is absolutely clear. If you’re serious about writing as a career, you’re gonna need to start taking your writing seriously. That means treating it as a job, and scheduling in x-amount of writing every day. Whether it’s 2000 words a day, a couple hours a day, or any variation of the above, you need to set a target, and sit down to it, without fail. No writers block, no lack of ideas, no excuses. You turn up at the same time each day, and eventually your muse will turn up to sit with you.
Equally important and along the same strand, is that you need to Invest in yourself and your craft. That means books, courses, and as mentioned above, time and practice. I cannot recommend Stephen King’s very own ‘On Writing: A Memoire Of The Craft’ enough. Seriously, seriously, seriously. My entire writing outlook changed after reading that book. Alongside being a great read and insight into his own life, schedule, and experiences, the book delves into some important writing lessons that we cannot afford to miss. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy today.
In that book, he talks a lot about ‘The Elements of Style’ by William Strunk, and highly recommends it. I do too. Combine the two books and you have enough of an education to get you selling stories and writing novels in no time.
I could end this post here and tell you that you now know enough to get going. Pat you on your back and send you on your way. But that’s no fair. There’s no fun in that, is there? So here’s a couple bonus lessons I’ve learned through my obsessive Stephen King consumption.
Character Driven Stories
One of the most immersive and engaging factors to any Stephen King story, is the care and attention given to his characters. If you’ve read anything by him, you can instantly see that his stories are—for the most part—character driven. He spends a lot of time getting to know them, breathing life into them, and letting them steer the rest of the story in whichever direction best suits them.
If you’re a plotter, you’ll have almost certainly come across times where the plot you laid out no longer suits the characters you’re writing about. It’s like they aren’t doing as they’re told, and if you try to force them, the entire novel loses its life. This is only natural. As you’re characters develop and come alive, certain elements of your plot may no longer ring true for them. As he states in On Writing, believability is key to writing a decent novel, no mater how fantastical or otherworldly that novel may be.
This Is A Tough Biz
Unless you’ve spent ten years on writing and editing the most perfect novel of all time, you’re gonna have to develop a thick skin, and an otherworldly determination despite all rejection letters. Because you’re gonna go through loads of those. Magazines will sit on your manuscript for months, to simply send a thanks, but no thanks. Others will tell you ‘resubmit, your story wasn’t for us, but the next one might be.’ With patience, determination, and a love for writing stories, you will break through.
From there, you’ll keep going, rejections, approvals, and all. You might start on small mags and obscure anthologies, but with each approval you’re picking up credits. Ignore the money, it’s not that important right now. It’s all about those credits. With each one, you’ll have a little more credibility in your cover letters, and start moving up the ranks.
This is assuming you write short stories, novellas, and flash fiction alongside novels. Personally, I do. Some stories simply don’t make it to novel length… others become a trilogy. Don’t force them into novels. Tie them up, and put ‘em in circulation!
If you’re dead set on novels and novels alone, then just keep on writing, keep on improving, keep on refining, and keep on submitting.
Don’t Be Afraid To Shoot & Miss
Stephen King is the perfect example of sitting down and writing what’s in your head, even if the story may end up a little shaky. After all, he did write Maximum Overdrive (LOL).
The point I’ll tie this post up with is this: you need to write what you want to write at the time. When inspiration strikes, when characters call, when a story starts to develop, you owe it to yourself to get it down on paper, no matter how bizarre it may turn out. In one of Stephen King’s most recent novels, Revival, we see one of the more bizarre conclusions a novel can end up with. It was a pretty good read, while some parts were arguably better than others. But the point is, it worked. If he abandoned the book because it took a strange turn, a lot of readers that LOVED that book would have missed out on it.
So don’t be afraid of a certain story being too this, or too that, or unsellable. Get it written, and submit to multiple publishers with all the rest of ‘em. If a simple rejection is enough to stop you in your tracks, you’re not somebody to take writing seriously. Write for the love of writing, and never, ever, give up.
Like this article? Don’t miss: 5 Simple Steps To Take Your Writing to the Next Level
What’s your favourite Stephen King novel to date? Let me know in the comments.