Often cited by writers as their catalyst, Stephen King’s A Memoir of the Craft on Writing offers unblanched advice.
Candid and littered with salty phrases, King never pulls a punch, each aimed at the writer’s gut. You’re left with no choice but to fight for your dream — to write a full-length novel. But what worked for the king of horror may not work for everyone, and he acknowledges that (see note #9).
You’ll likely find more than a few key takeaways from King’s book. For example:
- A writer’s original assumption about a character may be erroneous (i.e., you’ll have to adjust as the story unfolds).
- Never stop writing just because it’s hard (i.e., finish so you can enjoy the results even if it’s only a learning experience).
- Learn and practice critical writing skills, including vocabulary, grammar, and style.
- Writers must do two things a lot: read and write!
- Understand readers want a good story to take with them on the airplane, something that will first fascinate them, then pull them in and keep them turning the pages. Put characters in the book that readers will recognize based on behaviors and talk.
- Put those characters into predicaments, and without the author’s help, watch them find a way out of the problems (i.e., let your characters take on a life of their own even if it deviates from your planned story).
- Draw readers in by describing people and places using all the senses, and limit the length of descriptions to a few well-chosen details.
- Let dialogue cast characters’ voices, making clear how one individual differs from another.
- Apply the writing techniques you find useful and make sure they don’t impede your story.
- Every book worth reading is about something, so make sure you can spot what yours is about before you stop writing and editing. King wrote, “Good fiction always begins with story and progresses to theme; it almost never begins with theme and progresses to story.”
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