Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stephen King breaks it down

by Miriam

Our client and friend Kathryn Casey posted a link on Facebook the other day to a blog featuring a 2005 piece by Stephen King that promises to teach you everything you need to know about being a successful writer. Now, Stephen (if I may call him that) and I have always had a troubled relationship. No, not like that! I’ve never met the man. Even though I’ve only ever seen him in person across a crowded Javits Center at BEA back when it was the ABA, like many of you I’ve followed his literary peregrinations with great interest despite the fact that I find every new book by him increasingly impossible to wade through. My feeling is that his prodigious talent as a storyteller and prose stylist notwithstanding, he just misses being one of the “greats” (you know who they are). In recent years, however, I’ve become a fan of his EW columns and I always enjoy his quirky take on pop culture. The guy’s smart and successful and he obviously has a lot of wisdom to impart but he does it in an accessible manner and never seems to take himself too seriously.

Whether you’re a fan of Stephen King’s work or not, however, you have to admit that he has fashioned a brilliant career as a writer and these tips are both amusing and dead-on. Except for #11, of course. You do need an agent to turn everything else to gold—maybe not when SK was starting out, but definitely now that the business has become a multi-headed hydra.

What do you guys think of SK’s advice? Anything that especially jumps out at you here?


  1. That article was first published 24 years ago.

    I personally loved #12 the best because killing off characters sometimes makes thing worse for my protagonist.

    About #11; try to remember the era he wrote that in. Magazines were hot still and accepting great stories for a good buck.

    Short stories could still be sold routinely.

    I feel he was saying that as a writer you should get out there, flog your work and make lots of money.

    Then, with accolades in hand, approach agents and move to the next step.

    Today is a different story. Unless you're going self-published (e-book) you had better have an agent on your side.

    That's take on this...thanks!

  2. #1: Be talented.

    Of course! How could I not think of that one?

  3. #0 : Be infamous or famous,

    Then, like Madonna you can write a children's book. I'm sure there would be a market for a "discovered" cook book by Jeffery Dalmer.

    Actually, I've always been struck by the wisdom of that article by Stephen King. Of his last three books, I only truly enjoyed DUMA KEY but enjoyed that one so much I bought the audio cd to listen on my runs as a blood courier.

    Interesting post, Roland

  4. A little bit of the librarian-in-training in me balks at his suggestion to never look at a reference book while writing a first draft--but mostly because he's defining reference books as primarily dictionary/thesaurus, and because in a number of genres (historical fiction, some science fiction), it's important to have the facts down or you could end up having to rewrite a lot later. (Unless you're not going for realism or accuracy, I suppose. That's fine if it fits your story, but it's something that should be deliberate and known from the beginning.) Otherwise his advice is very sound (except #11)!

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