On Writing by Stephen King

Goodreads, Amazon
  • Put in the time (reading and writing, in this case)
  • Have a concrete goal (he shoots for 10 pages / 2000 words per day)
  • Avoid distractions (“shut the door”)
  • Build the habit (it gets easier over time)
  • Your vocabulary will get the job done. Don’t put on airs. The first word you think of is usually the best choice.
  • Learn proper grammar, dammit! Don’t be sloppy. King has a striking affection for the Elements of Style. I love this.
  • Avoid passive verbs. “Timid writers like them for the same reason timid lovers like passive partners.”
  • The adverb is not your friend. Adverbs reveal a writer afraid of not expressing themself clearly.
  • In non-fiction, the basic paragraph form—topic sentence followed by support and description—enforces refined thinking. (In fiction, it’s more about beat than structure.)
  • The more you read and write, the more you’ll find your paragraphs forming on their own
  • When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. (“Write with the door closed.”) When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out. (“Rewrite with the door open.”)
  • Have your ideal reader in mind… not just the general public, but a specific person. This helps you get outside yourself a little.
  • Let the draft mellow, then come back with fresh eyes. (King suggests six weeks.)
  • Allow for boredom. This will help create space for “that sudden flash of insight where you see how everything connects.” King refers to it as the “overlogic,” a term I’m determined to start using.
  • “Is this story coherent? And if it is, what will turn coherence into a song?”
  • fun
  • a lonely job
  • telepathy
  • refined thinking
  • seduction
  • a way back to life
  • magic

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Michael Siliski

Michael Siliski

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