In his memoir, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King shares valuable insights into how to be a better writer. The book was first published in 2000. In 2010, a special anniversary edition of this million-copy bestseller was republished. Here are a few great pieces of advice from the memoir:
1. Stop watching television. Instead, read as much as possible: If you're just starting out as a writer, your television should be the first thing to go.
2. Prepare for more failure and criticism than you think you can deal with: Not only will you doubt yourself, but other people will doubt you, too. Oftentimes, you have to continue writing even when you don't feel like it. And when you fail, King suggests that you remain positive.
3. Don't waste time trying to please people: Rudeness should be the least of your concerns. "If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered anyway," he writes.
4. Write primarily for yourself: You should write because it brings you happiness and fulfilment. As King says, "If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever."
5. Disconnect from the rest of the world: Put your desk in the corner of the room, and eliminate all possible distractions, from phones to open windows.
6. Don't be pretentious: One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones, says King.
8. Avoid adverbs and long paragraphs: King believes "adverbs are worst after "he said" and "she said" — those phrases are best left unadorned. Also pay attention to your paragraphs, so that they flow with the turns and rhythms of your story.
9. Don't get overly caught up in grammar: Writing is primarily about seduction, not precision. The object of fiction isn't grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story, he says.
10. Master the art of description: Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's," writes King. The important part isn't writing enough, but limiting how much you say. Visualise what you want your reader to experience, and then translate into words. The key to good description is clarity, both in observation and in writing. Use fresh images and simple vocabulary to avoid exhausting your reader. "In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it 'got boring,' the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority," notes King.
11. Don't give too much background information: There's a difference between lecturing about what you know and using it to enrich the story," writes King. Only include details that move your story forward and persuade your reader to continue reading. If you need to research, make sure it doesn't overshadow the story. Research belongs "as far in the background and the back story as you can get it," says King. You may be entranced by what you're learning, but your readers are going to care a lot more about your characters and your story.
12. Tell stories about what people actually do: Bad writing is more than a matter of shit syntax and faulty observation; bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do — to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street," writes King. The people in your stories are what readers care about the most, so make sure you acknowledge all the dimensions your characters may have.
13. Take risks; don't play it safe: First and foremost, stop using the passive voice. It's the biggest indicator of fear. "Fear is at the root of most bad writing," King says. "Try any goddamn thing you like, no matter how boringly normal or outrageous. If it works, fine. If it doesn't, toss it," he adds.
14. Realise that you don't need drugs to be a good writer: Substance-abusing writers are just substance-abusers. "Any claims that the drugs and alcohol are necessary to dull a finer sensibility are just the usual self-serving bullshit," believes King.
15. Don't try to steal someone else's voice: When you try to mimic another writer's style for any reason other than practice, you'll produce nothing but "pale imitations." This is because you can never try to replicate the way someone feels and experiences truth, especially not through a surface-level glance at vocabulary and plot.
16. Understand that writing is a form of telepathy: All the arts depend upon telepathy to some degree, but I believe that writing is the purest distillation, says King. An important element of writing is transference. Your job isn't to write words on the page, but rather to transfer the ideas inside your head into the heads of your readers.
17. Take your writing seriously: You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or despair, says King. If you don't want to take your writing seriously, he suggests that you close the book and do something else. As writer Susan Sontag says, "The story must strike a nerve — in me. My heart should start pounding when I hear the first line in my head. I start trembling at the risk."
18. Write every single day: Once I start work on a project, I don't stop, and I don't slow down unless I absolutely have to, says King. "If I don't write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind ... I begin to lose my hold on the story's plot and pace." If you fail to write consistently, the excitement for your idea may begin to fade. When the work starts to feel like work, King describes the moment as "the smooch of death." His best advice is to just take it "one word at a time."
19. Finish your first draft in three months: King likes to write 10 pages a day. Over a three-month span, that amounts to around 180,000 words. "The first draft of a book — even a long one — should take no more than three months, the length of a season," he says. If you spend too long on your piece, King believes the story begins to take on an odd foreign feel.
20. When you're finished, take a long step back: King suggests six weeks of "recuperation time" after you're done writing, so you can have a clear mind to spot any glaring holes in the plot or character development. He asserts that a writer's original perception of a character could be just as faulty as the reader's. When you do find your mistakes, he says that "you are forbidden to feel depressed about them or to beat up on yourself. Screw-ups happen to the best of us."
21. Have the guts to cut: When revising, writers often have a difficult time letting go of words they spent so much time writing. But, as King advises, "Kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler's heart." Although revision is one of the most difficult parts of writing, you need to leave out the boring parts in order to move the story along. In his advice on writing, Vonnegut suggests, "If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out."
22. Stay married, be healthy, and live a good life: King attributes his success to two things: his health and his marriage