Stephen King’s 20 Writing Rules Reconsidered – Part 1

We open up a can of arrogance on Stephen King’s 20 Writing Rules.
Sometimes we like his advice…
Sometimes we don’t…
As always, we discuss why and why not.

Find the whole article here:

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. 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.”
2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe. The timid fellow writes “The meeting will be held at seven o’clock” because that somehow says to him, ‘Put it this way and people will believe you really know. ‘Purge this quisling thought! Don’t be a muggle! Throw back your shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write ‘The meeting’s at seven.’ There, by God! Don’t you feel better?”
3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend. Consider the sentence “He closed the door firmly.” It’s by no means a terrible sentence, but ask yourself if ‘firmly’ really has to be there. What about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before ‘He closed the door firmly’? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, then isn’t ‘firmly’ an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?”
4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.” “While to write adverbs is human, to write ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ is divine.”
5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story… to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all. “
6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.”
7. Read, read, read. “You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

2 thoughts on “Stephen King’s 20 Writing Rules Reconsidered – Part 1

  1. Daniel Hoffmann

    Going over Stephen King’s rules for writing are kind of like reviewing Linda Lovelace’s rules for method acting.

    1. jon Post author

      We started the King show imagining a fun, lighter, breezier show, only to quickly realize how much material there was and how odd some of it was. We ended up exploring some ideas that we might not have and even the nature of writing advice itself. As for Ms. Lovelace’s method acting rules, I’ve always found them rather hard to swallow.

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